Zoe Swank, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Zoe Swank, Yasmeen Senussi, Zachary Manickas-Hill, Xu G. Yu, Jonathan Z. Li, Galit Alter, David R. Walt
David R. Walt
Research Category: COVID-19
The diagnosis and management of post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC) poses an ongoing medical challenge. Identifying biomarkers associated with PASC would immensely improve the classification of PASC patients and provide the means to evaluate treatment strategies. We analyzed plasma samples collected from a cohort of PASC and COVID-19 patients (n = 63) to quantify circulating viral antigens and inflammatory markers. Strikingly, we detect SARS-CoV-2 spike antigen in a majority of PASC patients up to 12 months post-diagnosis, suggesting the presence of an active persistent SARS-CoV-2 viral reservoir. Furthermore, temporal antigen profiles for many patients show the presence of spike at multiple time points over several months, highlighting the potential utility of the SARS-CoV-2 full spike protein as a biomarker for PASC.
While symptoms resulting from infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) typically resolve within a few weeks, some individuals experience persistent symptoms following the acute phase of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The associated syndrome, termed post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC) or long COVID, encompasses a range of symptoms, affecting multiple organs. Although recent studies provide clues, the underlying causes of long COVID are not well understood. As long COVID symptoms are heterogeneous, a specific diagnostic test would greatly improve the classification of long COVID patients. We recently discovered that many patients diagnosed with long COVID have SARS-CoV-2 spike protein in their blood up to 12 months post-infection. If this trend is validated in a larger number of patients, then testing for spike could greatly aid the diagnosis of long COVID. Furthermore, if the presence of spike is linked with an ongoing infection, patients treated with anti-viral therapies could be monitored and a decrease in spike levels would be expected to correlate with effective treatment strategies.