During the first few months of the pandemic, oncologist and geneticist Ami Bhatt started looking into the many reports of diarrhea and vomiting in COVID-19 patients.
Bhatt and some of her colleagues from the Stanford Medicine in California laboratory considered a link between these gastrointestinal symptoms and the pandemic-causing virus and began collecting stool samples to figure things out.
At the same time, gastroenterology internist Timon Adolph was also puzzled by similar cases of coronavirus patients with gut problems so he and his colleagues from the Medical University of Innsbruck in Austria decided to also gather gastrointestinal-tissue biopsies.
Now, two years after, it looks like these experts’ foresight has actually paid off!
Both teams published their results not too long ago, proving that remnants of SARS-CoV-2 are able to stay in patients’ gut for months following the infection with the virus.
With that being said, these studies have joined the growing amount of evidence that some persistent bits of the virus staying behind could be what causes long COVID.
Bhatt has ominously called these virus remnants “ghosts” for obvious reasons.
At the same time, however, Bhatt stressed that research is yet to undeniably link these persistent fragments and long COVID together.
“Additional studies need to still be done — and they are not easy,” she stated.
So then what exactly causes long COVID?
There are many theories about the origins of this mysterious affliction which include harmful immune responses, lingering viral reservoirs staying in the body and even tiny blood clots.
Most researchers seem to believe that a mix of all of these factors is to blame for long COVID, however.
At the same time, many unknowns still need to be deciphered before science can make a final assessment.
In the meantime, Bhatt hopes that samples will soon become available to test the whole viral-reservoir theory.
For instance, the US National Institute of Health is currently running a massive study known as RECOVER that is set to tackle the cause or causes of long COVID and will collect biopsies from the participants’ lower intestines.