According to a new study, COVID-19 is not only dangerous on its own but it may also be able to reactivate viruses dormant in your body even after years of them being there without your knowledge.
In turn, this can lead to people suffering chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms, which is a condition that looks a lot like long COVID.
If you’ve had COVID-19 and recovered months ago but still don’t feel like you used to, experiencing dizziness, heart palpitations and tiredness no matter how much rest you get, you may be thinking it’s long COVID but as this new research points out, this may not be the case.
As it turns out, getting infected with even a mild or asymptomatic case of COVID-19 may reactivate reservoirs of viruses you had battled in the past, causing symptoms of chronic fatigue.
This was shared in the study published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology.
The research team found viruses similar to herpes such as Epstein-Barr, which happens to be one of the drivers behind mono, in unvaccinated patients formerly diagnosed with COVID.
In the case of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, their antibody responses seemed to be stronger, which suggested their immune system was struggling to battle lingering viruses.
Pathogens like these, not related to COVID-19, have been associated with chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition that comes with symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, dizziness and sleep that is not restful.
Many experts point out that many of the long COVID symptoms are really similar to the ones caused by chronic fatigue syndrome.
Now, a team of researchers has theorized that there is a good reason this is the case, namely the fact that COVID infection could lead to the suppression of one’s immunity, allowing for dormant viruses to get reactivated by the stress of COVID.
This means that in some cases, long COVID may not be a new thing but just another illness altogether, awoken by the previous infection.
Codirector of the long COVID clinic from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Dr. Alba Miranda Azola, shared with Fortune that this is the case with at least a significant portion of long COVID patients.
That being said, the clinic does not check for reactivated viruses in their patients, explaining that “We do not have enough evidence to support that treatment.”
Assistant professor Dr. Panagis Galiasatos also mentioned that “If a patient does not seem to respond to any treatment, maybe we will test for other things.”
However, that is often not the case, Dr. Azola noting that “There is no treatment truly targeting chronic fatigue syndrome. There are certainly treatments that can aid with symptom management and to improve quality of life, but they are not curative.”