I’m a Covid researcher – and I’ve had Covid for a long time. That’s why I have to be a part of the fight against it. Stephanie Longet

Photo of author

I First arrived in the UK from Switzerland in 2019 to work in the High Consequence Emerging Virus Group at what is now the UK Health Protection Agency. At that time, my project focused on survivors of Ebola virus disease. I was excited for a new chapter in the Ebola field. But Covid quickly changed our plans.

We used our skills to develop covid treatments and new antivirals. I was involved in preliminary research to study Sars-CoV-2 infection and test vaccine candidates. The lab moved to the University of Oxford, where we joined a consortium of researchers studying how the immune system was responding after people died. Got vaccinated.

The whole time, it was like a race. For the first time – unlike Ebola – I had some friends and family members who were infected with the pathogen I was working on. Some of them developed serious illness and were admitted to the hospital. One of them passed away. My mother got long covid. It was a nightmare, but at least I felt I was playing a part in this great war.

Then, in June 2022, I woke up and had difficulty walking. I assumed I was tired. I had been vaccinated three times, and had never tested positive before, even after being exposed to SARS-CoV-2. But 36 hours later, a lateral flow test confirmed that the virus I’d been working on for two years had finally caught up with me. I spent six horrible days with excruciating pain all over my body, and I had difficulty moving from room to room.

Many of my symptoms are long gone. I lost taste for three weeks and smell for six. I was exhausted after several weeks. But even now, after more than seven months have passed, the pain in my feet has never gone away. It is as if I have the feet of an old man. I can only put in a little effort at a time while walking. I know there are people in worse condition than me. I’m still able to work, eg. But every moment, I still remember that I was diagnosed with Covid and never fully recovered.

Currently, 2 million people in the UK experience self-reported prolonged Covid symptoms. Due to the prominence of the condition, there is an enormous scientific research interest. There are four main hypotheses about what might be causing the disease. Viral reservoirs, or areas in the body where Sars-CoV-2 persists after the initial infection has cleared. Autoimmunity, which means the immune system can be deregulated after Covid and react against the body’s own components. Latent virus activation, which means that viruses that lie dormant within the body, such as Epstein-Barr, or herpes, can be triggered by Covid. And it’s likely that the inflammation caused by Covid over a long period of time is causing tissue damage.

As a researcher myself, the viral reservoir hypothesis seems relevant to me. There may be places in the body where the virus itself, or its remaining genetic material or protein molecules, is causing persistent stimulation of the immune system and chronic inflammation. It was recently shown in a study that Sars-CoV-2 was able to infect and produce its genes and various structural components in a wide range of tissues in the body, including muscle tissue. Interestingly, one study also reported that circulating spike protein was detected in 60% of patients with long COVID up to 12 months after acute infection. However, an association does not mean that it is causation. In fact, when I read new studies about the topic, I’m also trying to understand what’s going on in my feet.

About three months after my initial infection, I requested a blood test with my GP to rule out other muscle conditions. But everything looked normal. I also met a physiotherapist but he was not able to help me since I did not have any problem with movement. To find out more about my condition, I signed up as a patient in the Wilco research study, led by Professor Danny Altman at Imperial College London, which seeks to understand the immune system issues underlying long Covid. Is. I also joined a study led by a team in Luxembourg developing a phone application to improve symptom tracking and follow-up. And I’ve joined a patients’ association, and am in touch with some of the longer Covid communities on social media.

I am starting a new position as assistant professor in France very soon. My work will focus on mucosal immunization – delivering vaccines to sites, such as the inside of the nose and mouth, where pathogens actually enter the body – and one axis of my research will focus on COVID-19. If we develop a vaccine strategy to improve long-term respiratory immunity, it could help reduce the infection rate, and ultimately, reduce the long-term COVID rate. Current vaccines are highly efficient in reducing the severity of the disease, but are less effective against simply becoming infected.

I also plan to develop a project about long covid and see if mucosal immunity is different between people who have fully recovered after covid and those who have not fully recovered. In every country we need long-term resources and funding to pursue this type of research.

I don’t know whether my condition will improve or not. Or what if I get another infection. I’m still very cautious, and my N95 mask is still my best friend. I work in the field, and I am suffering from long covid, so I have to join this fight. Although it is difficult, every day my prolonged Covid symptoms give me strength to research, understand and treat the condition better.

Leave a Comment