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 staunchly maintain their anti-VAXXER stance.
The Australian government has now lifted the mandatory isolation period for people contracting Covid and hopefully, now life will be returning to relative normality. By this, I mean ongoing conflict between nations, the ravages caused by climate change, not to mention the ongoing carnage from the true pandemic of the 21st century, diabesity.
Although it appears that the Covid pandemic is diminishing, we are still left with many residual effects, and I thought I would focus on two interesting issues that have arisen over the past 2.5 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 about 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 a 50-80% 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.
The second significant residual effect of Covid is 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, gut or basically, any organ in the body.
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 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 and many of our organs.
There are some innovative health practitioners who are using a variety of techniques to assess the gut microbiome and then use specific therapies to eliminate the pathogenic bacteria and rebuild a healthy gut environment.
The second interesting theory is that of re-activation of dormant chronic viruses, such as Epstein-Barr Virus, which is the cause of glandular fever and antibodies present in over 90% of the population. It is suggested that SARS-CoV2 reactivates these viruses, sending the immune system into overdrive and 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 concrete answers for this, many people working in this area are using the active versions of CoEnzyme Q10, derivatives of Vitamin B3 and 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 extent, finished, there are still many active cases in the community and the debate still rages on as to the best current approach (i.e., should we return to normal living, should we continue to wear masks, isolate when ill etc). Regardless, it may well be that we continue to experience the chronic effects and other long-term consequences of this pervasive virus for many years to come.