- Researchers are working on a simple blood test for "long-COVID."
- The test could be ready within six months, they said.
- COVID-19 long haulers have detectable "autoantibodies" that attack healthy cells, they found.
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Researchers are developing a simple blood test that could tell you whether you're a COVID-19 long-hauler.
The test could be ready within six months, they said.
The test works by looking for "autoantibodies," which mistakenly attack the body's cells. Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, and his team found these autoantibodies in the blood from people with "long COVID," but not in people whose symptoms resolved or who had never caught the virus.
"I'd hope that within six months we'd have a simple blood test that you could get from your GP [family doctor]," Altmann told the BBC.
Altmann said that the autoantibodies may be one of the causes of long-COVID symptoms, per the BBC.
The study was early-stage, and small, but could be scaled up, he said. There were other possible reasons why COVID-19 symptoms persisted in some people, he said.
Dr Elaine Maxwell, scientific advisor at the National Institute for Health Research, told the BBC that the findings were "exciting," but warned that long COVID was a complex condition that needed more research.
A third of people who catch coronavirus with symptoms develop long-COVID, defined as at least one self-reported symptom lasting for more than 12 weeks, UK data from June suggested.
The June study estimated that there were at least 2 million people with long COVID in the UK alone. Chris Whitty, the UK's chief medical advisor, warned Wednesday that lots of young people could become COVID-19 long-haulers, as the country recorded more than 27,000 new cases, mostly caused by the highly infectious Delta variant.
"It's hard to escape a prediction that 100,000 new infections a day equates to 10,000 to 20,000 long COVID cases a day, especially in young people. That's a lot of damage to a lot of lives," Altmann said.