WEDNESDAY, June 30, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Some folks suffering COVID long-haul symptoms might actually be experiencing an attack of fatigue-inducing Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a new study argues.
Two-thirds of a group of 30 COVID long-haul patients had high levels of Epstein-Barr antibodies, suggesting that EBV lying dormant in their bodies had been reactivated by their coronavirus infection, researchers reported.
“While SARS-CoV-2 clearly causes acute COVID-19 disease, the inflammatory consequences of this may lead to the participation of other agents, specifically EBV, in the complex pathogenesis of the disease-associated problems over the long-term,” said lead researcher Jeffrey Gold, president of World Organization, an environmental nonprofit group.
More than 95% of adults carry Epstein-Barr, which is a herpesvirus, the researchers said in background notes. The virus is the most common cause of mononucleosis, a disease that also leaves its sufferers persistently exhausted.
“It’s just there. It remains latent in yourself, and anything that stresses your body can cause it,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore. “If you look at EBV viral loads in ICU patients, they’re going to be elevated. Anybody in any kind of stressful situation, there’s a likelihood that [Epstein-Barr] would be reactivated or it would be replicating.”
However, Adalja added that more evidence is needed to prove the connection, given that EBV is widespread among humans and can be triggered by physical or psychological stress.
For this study, Gold and his colleagues surveyed 185 COVID patients and found that about 30% were suffering long-haul symptoms.
Taking a closer look at 30 of the long-haul COVID patients, researchers found that 20 of them carried levels of EBV antibodies high enough to suggest Epstein-Barr reactivation.
These long-haul patients with high EBV antibody levels reported fatigue, insomnia, headaches, body aches and confusion as their most common symptoms. Other symptoms included tinnitus (ringing in the ears), hearing loss and skin rashes.
The researchers argued that COVID infection is causing EBV to flare in some patients, and that is what triggers their long-haul symptoms.