SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — After more than two and a half years of COVID research, scientists are seeing the first data points proving dramatic change in human organs after COVID infection.
“You can start to think of getting COVID as an accelerator for aging. The viral infection speeds up the aging process in humans,” says Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, director of the Clinical Epidemiology Center at Washington University in St. Louis and the United States. chief of research and education service at Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System.
dr. Al-Aly collected data from millions of people across the country. Their studies of kidney outcomes in long COVID, long COVID in the brain, and long COVID in the heart had similar patterns.
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All pointing to multiple human organs aging faster after COVID. The majority happens among people who have been hospitalized, as well as some with mild COVID symptoms.
“Almost three to four years in a span of just one year,” said Dr. Al-Aly and added, “What we’ve seen is that in the year following that infection, people lose about three to four percent kidney function. That usually happens with aging. They get three to four years older.”
We brought these findings to Dr. Michael Peluso, an infectious disease specialist at UCSF. His team was one of the first in the country to begin long-term COVID research in April 2020.
“Dr. Al-Aly’s group at the VA in St. Louis has been very important in mapping out the problems of what people experience after they have COVID. Specifically, the effects on the organ system after someone has had COVID,” said Dr. Peluso and added, “What we’re trying to do now is figure out the biology of what causes those long-term effects.”
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dr. Peluso said his team has an idea why some organs may be aging or injured after COVID.
“Some of the theories about what can cause long-term COVID symptoms include persistence of the virus, so instead of the virus coming and going, it hangs around, inflammation, autoimmune problems. Changes in the microbiome. The good ones. bacteria that are in our corpses,” Peluso said.
While more years of data are needed, Dr. Al Aly that this accelerated aging process will eventually stop.
“My hunch from the data and also my hope that eventually this will really level off and there is some early evidence that this may actually be the case that the risk or the renal impairment really levels off with time,” said Dr. Al-Aly.
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