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Are People More Susceptible To Latent Infections After COVID-19?

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

The COVID-19 Vaccinations are going on hurriedly. As of 24th July 2021, around 9.28 Cr. citizens have been vaccinated. The latest news is of recovery in patients after COVID-19 being impaired due to inactive or dormant bacteria/viruses becoming active. This is different from people who recover but suffer symptoms due to the long term effects of COVID-19

As per new studies and data coming in, the SARS-CoV-2 virus may be making it easier for viruses or bacteria that are already present in the body to activate and cause infections. Usually, these microbes are inactive but Post-COVID complications may alter things. 

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Are Increasing Post-COVID-19 

The CMV virus may enter the body but can’t become active unless the immune system is compromised, so it remains latent (sleeping/inactive) in most people. This virus does not leave the body, so in people with weak immunity due to some cancer, HIV/AIDS and those under immunosuppression, this particular virus has a chance to become active.

As per anecdotal information, doctors suggest that this situation may be arising due to some of the medicines used to treat COVID-19. These medicines may save patients’ lives during the worst stages of COVID-19 but they suppress the immune system which increases the likelihood of Post-COVID complications. The most common symptoms so far in patients presenting with CMV are stomach pain and blood in the stool, 20 – 30 days after they were diagnosed with COVID-19. 

The long term effects of COVID-19 are not limited to an increased risk of CMV but also a suppressed immune system that may lead to fungal or bacterial infections. Apart from this, the CMV is well-studied and treatments for the same are readily available. 

It’s possible that COVID is reactivating latent viruses in at least a portion of long COVID patients, causing chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms. There’s general consensus that some level of aberrant immune response happens in COVID-19 which further adds that it makes people more susceptible to latent infections like TB and fungal infections.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

The Connection Between COVID-19 and Tuberculosis

The Tuberculosis bacteria hibernates in the human body when we’re treated for this disease and like CMV, it also stays in the body. In some people, TB never manifests but the latest studies in mice show that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 may reactivate dormant TB bacteria. 

This connection between COVID-19 and Tuberculosis may have major effects across India and the world since the WHO states that latent Tuberculosis affects nearly a quarter of the world’s population. 

It’s important to temper the alarm this study brings since it was performed only on mice and not on humans. The way forward will be to identify whether this is a long term effect of COVID-19 that we need to worry about and monitor the situation closely. 

Some people, especially those who had severe COVID-19, experience multiorgan effects or autoimmune conditions with symptoms lasting weeks, months, or even years after COVID-19 illness. Multi-organ effects can involve many body systems, including the heart, lung, kidney, skin, and brain.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj – M.B.B.S, M.D.

Is This Connected To The ”Black Fungus” Disease? 

Although not directly connected to the Mucormycosis fungal infection that has been popular in the news recently, all these Post-COVID complications are caused by the same mechanism. How it works is that patients with COVID-19 are often treated with medicines that inhibit or lower their immune system, this is done to protect them and prevent them from sustaining long-lasting damage. But the side effect of this treatment is that recovered COVID-19 patients are more susceptible to other infections (fungal, bacterial, viral) due to their weakened immune systems.

This weakness to infections that normally don’t cause any sickness is also common in other people who have compromised immune systems as mentioned above. The ‘black fungus’ infection happens for the same reason, i.e., COVID-19 activates latent infections and weak immune systems but otherwise, it is not directly connected to other long-term effects of COVID-19. 

How to Stay Safe Against These Infections: Post-COVID-19 Care 

If you have recovered from COVID-19 and especially if you were treated with drugs during your treatment, your risk for contracting infections is higher. It is vital to maintain proper hygiene and personal safety to lower your risk of contracting other diseases and Post-COVID complications. The usual COVID-19 protocols need to be followed stringently. More so, the Health Ministry has a detailed Post-COVID management protocol that you can refer to for guidance. 

These guidelines revolve around the continuance of regular mask and social distancing protocols, using diet and supplements to support your immunity and returning to professional work gradually so as not to stress your body and immune system too much. Additionally, you are advised to seek professional help in case of mental and physical recovery, apart from reaching out to friends, family and self-help groups for support.

Remember to follow up with your doctor after your recovery/discharge, preferably a week later. Be sure to inform your primary doctor of any symptoms that persist or any new symptoms that you notice during your recovery at home.

Stay Calm, Stay Safe

While care needs to be taken after recovering from COVID-19, it is important to understand that self-medication should be avoided in every case. Treatment for COVID and post COVID problems should be taken on a doctor’s advice only. Do not be stressed and fearful. Maintaining a healthy state of mind is a vital part of your recovery, so don’t jump to conclusions about whether you will or won’t face the long term effects of COVID-19. 

The last thing you or your body needs during this time is to panic and worry, so follow the necessary protocols and be calm. If you do notice some new symptoms, let your doctor know (either in person or via a phone consultation). 

Be alert regarding the standard safety protocols and you will be able to give your body time to strengthen your immune system. Lastly, although you need to wait a while, try your best to get vaccinated as soon as your doctor approves of it. 

For those who have not gone through COVID-19, it is important to get vaccinated at the earliest available slot and avoid contracting the disease in the first place. 

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

Links and product recommendations in the information provided here are advertisements of third-party products available on the website. PharmEasy does not make any representation on the accuracy or suitability of such products/services. Advertisements do not influence the editorial decisions or content. The information in this blog is subject to change without notice. The authors and administrators reserve the right to modify, add, or remove content without notification. It is your responsibility to review this disclaimer regularly for any changes.


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