Covid research shows that human organs can age 3-4 years faster after coronavirus infection

Covid research shows that human organs can age 3-4 years faster after coronavirus infection

San Francisco — After more than two and a half years of COVID research, scientists are seeing the first data points that demonstrate dramatic changes in human organs after COVID infection.

“You can start to think of Covid as accelerating aging,” said Dr. Ziad Al-Ali, director of the Center for Clinical Epidemiology at Washington University in St. Louis. Viral infections accelerate the aging process in humans. Chief of Research and Education Services of the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System.

Dr. Al-Ali has collected data from millions of people across the country. Similar patterns were found in their study of kidney outcomes in long-term covid, long-term covid in the brain, and long-term covid in the heart.

All point to accelerated aging of multiple human organs post-Covid. Most occur in people who have been hospitalized but some have mild symptoms of Covid.

“Just over a period of about three to four years,” Dr. Al-Ali said, adding, “What we’ve seen is that people lose about three to four percent of their kidney function in the year after infection. That usually happens with aging. From three to four years old.”

We took these findings to Dr. Michael Peluso, an infectious disease specialist at UCSF. His team was one of the first in the country to launch a long-term Covid study in April 2020.

“Dr. Al-Ali’s group at the VA in St. Louis was really important in trying to frame what people experience after having Covid. Especially the impact on organ systems after someone has had Covid,” Dr. Peluso said, adding, “Now , what we’re trying to do is what is the biology behind those long-term effects.”

Dr. Peluso said his team has insights into why some organs may experience aging or injury after Covid.

“Some of the theories that could cause longer symptoms of Covid include persistence of the virus, so instead of the virus coming and going — it sticks around, inflammation, auto-immune issues. Changes in the microbiome. The good bacteria that’s in us. The body,” Peluso said.

Although more years of data are needed, Dr. Al Ali believes that this extended aging process will eventually stop.

“My impression from the data and my hope is that it will really level off eventually and there are some early indications that it may indeed be that the risk or decline in kidney function really does level off over time,” said Dr Al-Ali.

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