The long-term effects of Covid-19 or “long Covid” are beginning to worry the scientific community, as people complain of other health effects, well after they have recovered from a SARS-CoV-2 infection.
“This is a scary aspect of the story,” said Benjamin tenOever, though it is early days yet. The instances may be anecdotal, but there are reports of “brain fog”, renal failure and heart-related problems being associated with people after they have recovered, he pointed out.
tenOever, had in 2007, started his own independent research group at the Icahn School of Medicine, New York, in the Department of Microbiology where he is currently an Arthur and Irene Fishberg Professor of Medicine and the Director of the Virus Engineering Center for Therapeutics and Research (VECToR). He was participating in a panel discussion at the final session of the TNQ-Janelia India Covid-19 seminar.
Referring to the evidence seen in small animals such as hamsters, he said, the long-term impact was seen in the lungs that was being interpreted as pre-cancerous and in the brain, it showed the signature Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. It is scary, he said, that the millions affected may have to deal with possible lung or brain-related problems.
Responding to another query on whether vaccine enhanced disease was a fear with the Covid-19 vaccine candidates that were being developed, Florian Krammer said, it was a reason to be concerned, though not too worried. There was no data indicating such a problem in human and non-human animals, he said, adding that late-stage advanced trials will be important in this regard.
Krammer is currently Professor of Vaccinology at the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, US.
On the aspect of risk, he added, the shortening of the timeline to develop a vaccine from about 15 years to about 1.5 years did not necessarily mean that safety aspects had been sacrificed.
‘No short-cuts taken’
In terms of safety, no short-cuts were taken, he said, adding that it was just as it is with traditional vaccines. Besides, even a late-stage Phase III trial may not show up an effect that could show up in 10 years, he added. And from that point of view the many people enrolled on the trials was a good thing, he observed.
Other participants in the discussion included Gagandeep Kang, clinician-scientist at the Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore; CS Pramesh, Director of the Tata Memorial Hospital and Professor and Head of Thoracic Surgery at the Tata Memorial Centre (TMC), Mumbai; and Aurnab Ghose, cellular neurobiologist and Associate Professor at IISER Pune.
The session concluded the three-part seminar hosted by TNQ Technologies and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)’s Janelia Research Campus.