Researchers pinpointing what triggers long-term coronavirus issues in lungs

Researchers pinpointing what triggers long-term coronavirus issues in lungs

Published March 30, 2022 in
By Gillian Brooks

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KGAN) — A research team in Iowa said a disease in the small airways of the lungs is a potential long-lasting impact of COVID-19.

University of Iowa Post-COVID Clinic researchers explained they believe everyone’s immediate response to COVID is similar in the lungs. In some cases, it is leaving behind inflammation or scar tissue. That is what is causing air-trapping, damaging the small airways of the lungs.

Dr. Alejandro Comellas said they are finding this outcome regardless of the severity of the COVID-19 case, but those vaccinated are not seeing the long-term impacts. A group of 100 people of all ages and genders had a scan taken of their lungs.

“We’re not really seeing this in people fully vaccinated. The vaccination is probably the best way to prevent acute infection and infection of the community but even post COVID. And the fact that people with mild diseases who are not required to go to the hospital, we still see a similar amount of involvement of the lungs. It tells that vaccination has a real role,” said Comellas.

Air-trapping could explain the constant breathing problems associated with long COVID.

The next step is to find out if the impacts are permanent or treatable.

“What we’re doing in the future is trying to find out whether these changes we’re seeing in this cat scan, are they going to remain there, or are people going to recover? So this was a cross-sectional; meaning a one-time point and that is going to tell us, do we need to start thinking about therapy that will target those small airways to try to recover or prevent further progression?’ said Comellas.

The air-trapping researchers are finding is also found in conditions like asthma.

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