The COVID-19 pandemic has left a lasting impact on global health, with many individuals experiencing persistent symptoms even after recovering from the initial infection. Termed “long COVID” or Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), these lingering symptoms can include physical and neurological issues such as fatigue, brain fog, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. To investigate the underlying causes of these neurological symptoms in PASC patients, researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, USA, collaborated with the University of Pennsylvania and the Centre for Neuro Skills in California, USA, to conduct a pilot study.
The study aimed to explore the connection between the secretion of growth hormone (GH) and the persistent neurologic symptoms experienced by PASC patients. By examining the potential links between GH secretion, other biomarkers, and the severity of PASC symptoms, the researchers hoped to gain insights into the underlying mechanisms of long COVID.
Long COVID or PASC is a complex condition that affects individuals who have experienced both severe and milder cases of COVID-19. The symptoms can vary widely, posing challenges for clinicians and researchers. In addition to neurological issues, PASC can also manifest as somatic symptoms such as chest pain, weakness, gastrointestinal discomfort, breathlessness, and reduced exercise tolerance. This heterogeneity suggests that PASC may not be a single condition but a group of syndromes triggered by a common infectious event.
Among the most common and distressing symptoms reported by individuals with PASC are fatigue and cognitive impairment. These symptoms are similar to those observed in patients recovering from other infectious diseases and inflammatory conditions, suggesting shared underlying mechanisms. Previous studies have shown that patients with brain injury-associated fatigue and altered cognition exhibit low GH secretion, and their symptoms improve with GH treatment. This led researchers to investigate whether GH secretion plays a role in PASC-related neurologic symptoms.
The pilot study involved two groups: PASC patients with lingering neurologic symptoms and non-PASC patients who had fully recovered from COVID-19 without persistent symptoms. The findings revealed that PASC patients reported significantly worse scores on questionnaires assessing fatigue, sleep quality, depression, and quality of life compared to non-PASC patients. While there was no significant difference in cognitive testing between the two groups, PASC patients showed reduced GH secretion, indicating a potential link between PASC-related neurologic symptoms and GH levels.
Although this pilot study provides valuable insights into the potential role of GH secretion in the persistence of neurologic symptoms in PASC patients, further research is needed to confirm and expand upon these findings. Larger cohorts and more comprehensive assessments of GH function are necessary to validate the results and explore potential therapeutic interventions. Understanding the connection between disrupted GH secretion and PASC-related symptoms could open doors to targeted treatments that alleviate the suffering of affected individuals.
In conclusion, long COVID or PASC presents a complex challenge with a wide range of symptoms affecting both the body and the brain. The pilot study conducted by researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Centre for Neuro Skills has provided valuable insights into a potential link between PASC-related neurologic symptoms and reduced growth hormone secretion. However, further research is warranted to confirm and build upon these findings. With millions of individuals worldwide grappling with the long-term consequences of COVID-19, finding effective treatments for PASC is of utmost importance.