Covid — is it over?
In September 2022, the World Health Organization declared the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is in sight. These comments were made following the lowest global monthly death figures in September 2022 since March 2020 when COVID-19 first established itself as a pandemic around the world.
Another interesting comment from the World Health Organization was an estimation that close to 20 million deaths were averted in 2021 due to the widespread use of vaccination. Strangely, there are still a significant number of people around the globe who maintain their anti-VAXXER stand and their opinions will not be shifted.
The Australian government has now lifted the mandatory isolation period for people contracting Covid and hopefully now life will be returning to relatively normality. By this I mean, ongoing conflict between nations, the ravages caused by climate change being seen around the globe with increasing devastation from hurricanes, floods and droughts depending on where you live, not to mention the ongoing carnage from the true pandemic of the 21st-century-diabesity.
Although it does appear that the Covid pandemic is finishing, we are still left with many residual effects and I thought I would focus on two interesting issues that have arisen over the past 2 1/2 years as a consequence of the pandemic.
The first is an interesting study published recently in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, reviewing the health outcomes of a large number of people over the age of 65 who contracted COVID-19. The study examined the medical records of over 6 million people over the age of 65 living in the US who had no prior diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease between February 2020 to May 2021. 400,000 of these developed COVID-19 whereas 5.8 million people were not infected. There was between a 50 to 80% increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease in those contracting COVID-19 compared with the uninfected group. This was most significant in women over the age of 85. in other words, there was basically a doubling of the Alzheimer’s disease risk in people who were infected with SARS-CoV2, as confirmed by their medical records.
The second significant residual effect of Covid is that of long Covid. To date, there have been over 10 million cases of Covid in Australia and it has been estimated that up to 500,000 of these cases will develop some of the symptoms of long Covid. The typical symptoms are fatigue, brain fog and shortness of breath but any organ system may be affected including the heart, the gut or basically any organ in the body and many people‘s lives are significantly affected by this condition.
To date the medical profession does not have any real answers for what can be done, despite the fact that there is reasonable consensus that this is due to a combination of excessive inflammation as a consequence of the infection, activation of the clotting system with small clots often forming throughout the body in a variety of organs and potentially a direct damaging effect of the virus on various components of DNA throughout the body.
To date, there are no specific conventional therapies for long Covid but it is suggested that vaccinations sometimes help and there are a variety of monoclonal antibodies that are being trialled with varying degrees of success.
There are, however, other theories that are not being particularly embraced by conventional medicine that do deserve some merit and consideration.
The first and I believe most likely cause is that of a significant alteration of the healthy gut microbiome as a consequence of COVID-19. The suggestion is that the virus kills off the healthy gut bacteria leading to an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria that wreak havoc on the immune system & many of our organs.
There are some innovative health practitioners who are using a variety of techniques to assess the gut microbiome & then use specific therapies to eliminate the pathogenic bacteria & rebuild a healthy gut environment.
The second interesting theory that deserves consideration is that of re-activation of dormant chronic viruses, such as Epstein-Barr Virus, that is the cause of glandular fever & antibodies are present in over 90% of the population. It is suggested that SARS-CoV2 reactivates these viruses sending the immune system into overdrive leading to all the consequences of long Covid. Some researchers around the world (many centred in Germany) are studying novel techniques to mitigate the effects of EBV in this setting.
Finally, all of the above markedly affects the fuel packs in each cell known as the mitochondria, leading to a significant reduction in energy production, in many ways simulating the well described chronic fatigue syndrome, which has striking similarities to many features of long Covid.
Again, although conventional medicine doesn’t have many suggestions in this regard, many people working in this area are using with some success the active versions of CoEnzyme Q10, derivatives of Vitamin B3 & other supportive therapies with some success, although there are certainly no randomised controlled trials to support any of these claims.
Although it does appear the pandemic has, to some great extent, finished, there are still many active cases in the community & the debate still rages on as to the best current approach (i.e. should we get back to normal activity, should we continue to wear masks, isolate when ill etc etc). Regardless, it may well be that we continue to experience the chronic effects & other long-term consequences of this pervasive virus for many years to come.