Levels of the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol are key indicators as to whether a person will suffer long-Covid, study finds

  • A Yale research team found that people who suffered from ‘long Covid’ had lower levels of cortisol in their blood
  • Cortisol is a stress hormone produced by the adrenal gland, activating the brain’s alerts
  • The CDC estimates that around 8% of American adults are suffering from some form of long Covid 

The ‘stress hormone’ cortisol could be at the center of the mystery that is ‘long Covid’ – the puzzling phenomena where a person still experiences symptoms of the virus for months after recovery.

Researchers at Yale University found that people who suffer from a case that could be considered ‘long Covid’ were generating around half as much cortisol as their healthy peers.

The exact link between cortisol and long Covid has not yet been found, but the Yale findings could open the door to explanation of a new hypothesis for what is causing the mysterious disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that around eight percent of American adults are suffering from a form of long Covid. 

Researchers found that long Covid patients have around half as much cortisol in their blood as people who recovered from the virus without long-term issue (file photo)

Researchers found that long Covid patients have around half as much cortisol in their blood as people who recovered from the virus without long-term issue (file photo)

It is near impossible to tell what chance a person has of developing it after Covid infection because of the massive underreporting of cases that has occurred since the Omicron variant emerged last year.

Researchers, whose findings have been made available pre-print online and pending peer review, gathered data from 215 people. 

Of that group, 99 had a case of long Covid, 40 had no recorded COVID-19 infections, while the remaining 76 recovered from the virus without long-term complications.

The most common symptoms suffered by long Covid patients included brain fog, fatigue and nervous system issues. 

They took blood samples from each participant and measured levels of cortisol found.

Cortisol is the body’s main stress hormone. It will activate in the adrenal glands – which are right about the kidneys – and disperse throughout the body.

Once enough of the hormone is detected in a person’s blood stream, the brain will go on to high alert, triggering the feeling we know as ‘stress’.

Low cortisol levels have been linked to chronic fatigue syndrome and other similar ailments in the past. Fatigue is also one of the most notable symptoms of long Covid.

The Yale research team noted that some long Covid patients that have been treated by boosting their cortisol levels have shown some improvement.

This is just the start of the search, though. Now that cortisol levels has been linked to long Covid, how exactly to treat it, and what the next step is developing treatments and finding the mechanism that causes the hormone to create issue.

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