Why do COVID-19 long hauler cases mimic other diseases such as Lyme?

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — It’s no secret some people have a much worse and longer case of COVID-19, known as COVID long haulers, but researchers are still trying to figure out why that is.

As it turns out, many of the long-haul cases mimic other infections, including Lyme disease.

If you really break down the difference between some COVID-19 cases and Lyme disease, you’ll find some of the symptoms are consistent.

“A lot of them [patients] will have chronic fatigue. Many of them will describe something that’s kind of memory issue, brain fog, as they’re kind of getting over the acute infection,” said Upstate Medical University Infectious Disease Physician, Kris Paolino.

Paolino treats patients suffering from a multitude of tick-borne diseases and he sees this type of crossover frequently.

“Lyme is similar to a lot of infections in that you can recover from the illness and you can still have a lot of symptoms,” Paolino said. “That post-infectious fatigue syndrome, it’s just, unfortunately, something that we see with a couple of different pathogens or infections.”

He and other doctors are trying to figure out why.

Lance Baldo is the Chief Medical Officer of Adaptive Biotechnologies, the company that developed a “T-Detect” COVID-19 test, looking at a persons’ t-cells to determine whether or not they’ve had a recent or past COVID-19 infection.

Right now, they’re also working on developing a similar test for Lyme in an ongoing ImmuneSense Lyme Study.

“There is quite a bit of overlap in terms of how these diseases present and how they might affect people over the long-term,” said Baldo. “The immune system almost certainly is playing some type of role in that but whether that’s antibodies, there’s some data that suggests antibodies are attacking the patient’s own cells after they clear COVID-19, or it could be in fact something to do with t-cells as well.”

As doctors continue to study data, the hope is that they’ll be able to pinpoint what exactly is happening.

“Some of the data that’s been coming out with the long haulers could potentially be used to help other different types of disease processes like chronic Lyme patients and other people who have had chronic infections or chronic symptoms after infections,” said Paolino.

We’re gonna have to put all those pieces together to not only find out why it’s happening but more importantly, how can we intervene and how can we treat these patients to make sure that they don’t suffer these consequences really for the rest of their lives.

Lance Baldo, Adaptive Biotechnologies

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