New study advances the prediction and treatment of long COVID

February 7, 2022 Swedish Health Team

A picture of Swedish infectious disease expert, Jason Goldman, M.D. standing in his lab


In this article:

  • As many as 40% of people experience “long COVID.”

  • There are several warning signs that someone is likely to develop long COVID.

  • Talk to your Swedish physician if you’re worried about ongoing COVID symptoms.

Swedish infectious disease expert Jason Goldman, M.D., is among researchers who have identified key indicators for vulnerability to the condition.

Most people diagnosed with COVID-19 recover in a few weeks. But many — estimates indicate that the number may be as high as 40% — continue to experience the disease long after their initial diagnosis and recovery. The condition, Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID, is commonly known as long COVID and includes the symptoms of fatigue, brain fog, the loss of taste and smell, shortness of breath and more.

“Just the frequency of long COVID tells us that there is an underlying, complex biology to the syndrome,” says Swedish infectious disease expert Dr. Goldman, a co-corresponding author of the paper published by the journal, Cell.



Researchers have identified several factors, which if present at the initial COVID-19 diagnosis, were predictors for a patient’s likelihood to develop long COVID. The newly identified warning signs, called PASC Factors, include the presence of certain autoantibodies, pre-existing Type 2 diabetes, the presence of Epstein-Barr virus DNA in the blood and the presence in the blood of RNA (a genetic material) from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.   

The research project, which was a collaboration between the Institute for Systems Biology, Swedish, the University of Washington, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and others, involved collecting blood and swab samples from 309 patients with COVID-19 at different points in their illness and, over time, analyzing them comparatively with patient-reported symptoms and other clinical data. 

The study also demonstrated several other important findings, including that the Epstein-Barr virus — which infects 90% of the human population and is normally inactive in the body after infection — is reactivated early on after a COVID infection, and is significantly associated with future long COVID symptoms. Researchers also found that mild cases of COVID-19 can be associated with long COVID.

“Our study pairs clinical data and patient-reported outcomes with deep, multi-faceted analyses to unravel how COVID symptoms are connected and interact in patients with PASC,” says Dr. Goldman. “Certain findings have the potential to translate rapidly to the clinic and treatment. Our results form an important foundation for the development of therapeutics to treat long COVID."

Read the latest updates on how we’re handling COVID-19.

Find a doctor

If you have questions about COVID-19, contact the primary care department at Swedish. We can accommodate both in-person and virtual visits.

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.

Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council. 

Additional resources 

New research hints at four factors that may increase the chances of long COVID

You can help protect yourself and others from COVID-19

How sick can kids get from COVID-19?

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Previous Article
Harnessing the power of the body’s own immune system to treat (and defeat) cancer
Harnessing the power of the body’s own immune system to treat (and defeat) cancer

Kelly Paulson, M.D., Ph.D., will lead the Center for Immuno-oncology at the newly formed Paul G. Allen Rese...

Next Article
Hank Kaplan, M.D., helms an initiative at Swedish that will change our understanding of cancer and benefit patients for generations to come
Hank Kaplan, M.D., helms an initiative at Swedish that will change our understanding of cancer and benefit patients for generations to come

Dr. Kaplan brings over 40 years of experience to the role.