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New Study Reveals Common Links Between Those Suffering From Post-COVID 'Long Hauler' Syndrome

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- While millions of Americans contract COVID-19 and seem to recover fairly well, that's not the case for many so-called "long haulers." They may struggle for months with an ongoing range of debilitating symptoms.

CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez has more on a study that reveals the root cause of post-COVID syndrome.

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Joanna Zieger is an Olympic triathlete and ironman champion, but these days she has trouble just taking her dog for a walk. She also struggles with brain fog and memory issues, symptoms that never went away after contracting COVID five months ago.

"It has been a very difficult transition, both work-wise and exercise-wise and for my mental health, just not having all of that," Zieger said.


She turned to National Jewish Health and its center for post-COVID care and recovery to find the common link between those who experience long-term effects of the virus.

"We see young and old. We see folks who had mild acute COVID or severe acute COVID and there was no clear predisposing comorbidity," Dr. Irina Petrache said.

READ MORETest In The Works To Diagnose COVID 'Long Haulers'

Heart and lung tests are usually normal in these patients, so researchers looked deeper to the cellular level, using a unique exercise test that produces hundreds of data points at once.

"Putting it together and really looking at what it is that's causing that person to stop exercising is kind of where the money is," Petrache said.


In a study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, researchers determined that, in certain people, the virus actually hinders cells from generating energy. It seems to cause a dysfunction in the tiny powerhouses within the cells called mitochondria, primarily in muscles but possibly linked to post-COVID symptoms in the lungs and nervous system, as well.

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This discovery, actually showing the molecular mechanisms that are broken in the mitochondria, shows researchers where and what kinds of drugs are needed to develop treatments for the millions who are suffering with post-COVID or long haul syndrome.

But, Gomez reported, until those drugs are developed, the best way to avid those long-lasting effects of the virus is to prevent infection in the first place by wearing a mask and getting vaccinated.

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