Background: Fibrin(ogen) amyloid microclots and platelet hyperactivation previously reported as a novel finding in South African patients with the coronavirus 2019 disease (COVID-19) and Long COVID/Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC), might form a suitable set of foci for the clinical treatment of the symptoms of long COVID/PASC. A Long COVID/PASC Registry was subsequently established as an online platform where patients can report Long COVID/PASC symptoms and previous comorbidities.
Methods: In this study, we report on the comorbidities and persistent symptoms, using data obtained from 845 South African Long COVID/PASC patients. By using a previously published scoring system for fibrin amyloid microclots and platelet pathology, we also analysed blood samples from 80 patients, and report the presence of significant fibrin amyloid microclots and platelet pathology in all cases.
Results: Hypertension, high cholesterol levels (dyslipidaemia), cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) were found to be the most important comorbidities. The gender balance (70% female) and the most commonly reported Long COVID/PASC symptoms (fatigue, brain fog, loss of concentration and forgetfulness, shortness of breath, as well as joint and muscle pains) were comparable to those reported elsewhere. These findings confirmed that our sample was not atypical. Microclot and platelet pathologies were associated with Long COVID/PASC symptoms that persisted after the recovery from acute COVID-19.
Conclusions: Fibrin amyloid microclots that block capillaries and inhibit the transport of O2 to tissues, accompanied by platelet hyperactivation, provide a ready explanation for the symptoms of Long COVID/PASC. Removal and reversal of these underlying endotheliopathies provide an important treatment option that urgently warrants controlled clinical studies to determine efficacy in patients with a diversity of comorbidities impacting on SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 severity. We suggest that our platelet and clotting grading system provides a simple and cost-effective diagnostic method for early detection of long COVID/PASC as a major determinant of effective treatment regimens, including those focusing on reducing clot burden and platelet hyperactivation.