Covid long: have Montpellier scientists solved the mystery of the disease?

Inserm research director at the Montpellier Cancer Institute, Alain Thierry suggests the path of a deregulation of the immune system, in an investigation carried out in collaboration with the Montpellier University Hospital. The study was published this Wednesday, November 9 in the journal Journal of medical virology. The patent for a blood test has been filed. The trail of new treatments is opening up.

Why do some people develop long Covid? More than 2 million people are affected, or 30% of people who have been infected, according to Public Health France.

In a study led by Alain Thierry, Inserm research director, and which brings together scientists from Inserm, the University of Montpellier, the Cancer Research Institute and Montpellier University Hospital, a new avenue for understanding the persistence of symptoms is beginning today: it could be a dysregulation of part of the immune defense, called “innate”, which Alain Thierry and his team from the Cancer Research Institute of Montpellier had already identified in the serious forms of Covid-19, recalls Inserm. The study appeared in the journal Journal of medical virology.

Alain Thierry is research director at Inserm.

“Like an autoimmune disease”

To understand in two words and before going further in the explanation: imagine that our immune system is an army. Researchers have shown that when a long Covid develops, the first line of rising soldiers, who should reorganize after the virus attack, remain in “combat” mode, with no escape to return to normal.

The “NETs”, these very powerful traps used against viruses by the “soldiers” of the first line who refuse to lay down their arms, are “nets” composed of DNA fibers, but also of bactericidal enzymes and molecules pro-inflammatory.

Their activation, notes Alain Thierry, leads to a succession of microthromboses in the heart, the blood vessels in particular, and an inflammation characteristic of the pathologies associated with long Covid, comorbidities well known to doctors: phlebitis, arterial thrombosis, joint inflammation, hypertension. .

To reach these conclusions, the researchers identified biological and physiological markers in a cohort of 155 sick patients, and compared them to those of 122 healthy individuals. They thus identified biological and physiological markers of long Covid. In parallel with the research which is now the subject of a publication, Alain Thierry and his team filed, last August, a patent for a blood test making it possible to identify these markers.

“This clinical trial was initiated at the Montpellier University Hospital at the same time as a trial conducted in the United States, but we are the first to demonstrate this deregulation of the immune system” in long Covid, says Alain Thierry.

Inhibitors, antioxidants, soon a treatment?

“The next step is to be able to offer treatment to patients with long Covid”indicates Alain Thierry, rather optimistic about the two ways of treatment: “With DNA inhibitors, we have treatments that go in this direction used in other pathologies. And we can also use antioxidants like vitamin C, for example”.

Trials are already underway in the United States and in Strasbourg in particular, specifies the researcher, who does not hide his enthusiasm: “It’s really a discovery, and it will also be used in the management of cancers which also cause thrombotic events, this is the case in 10% to 20% of patients who suffer from colon cancer for example. “.

Other pathologies are concerned: obesity, arterial hypertension, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis…

The Academy of Medicine warns: “We always die of Covid in France”

In a press release published this Wednesday, November 9, the National Academy of Medicine is concerned about a drop in vigilance, while “the Covid is still there” and that “the flu is back”. “Despite a sharp drop in the case fatality rate, people still die of Covid-19 in France. Of the 153,000 deaths attributed to this pandemic, around 30,000 have occurred since the start of 2022, more than three-quarters after the outbreak. ‘age of 65′, indicates the Academy, which reports a daily average of ’70 deaths since mid-October’.

However, “vaccination coverage has stopped progressing for several months, even among people most exposed to the risk of serious forms”, warns the health authority, which underlines that “the reminder campaign was little followed by people eligible, only 38.4% of 60-79 year olds are vaccinated, and 51.1% of those over 80”.

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