Experts at the University of Alberta have discovered that taurine may hold the key to predicting and possibly treating long COVID. The research offers new insights into the biological basis of this debilitating condition.
“This research helps us understand what’s happening in the bodies of people with long COVID and could lead to better treatments and tests for them in the future,” said principal investigator Professor Gavin Oudit.
The researchers have developed a predictive test to determine which patients with COVID-19 will have lingering symptoms. Next, the team will conduct a clinical trial to further investigate taurine as a potential treatment for reducing long COVID symptoms.
“An estimated 10–30 percent of individuals convalescing from SARS-CoV-2 infection continue to experience post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC) or long COVID, characterized by fatigue, sleep disturbance, confusion, and dyspnea, alongside many other debilitating symptoms resulting in significant impairments in their quality of life,” wrote the study authors.
For the investigation, the team followed 117 patients admitted to hospitals with acute COVID-19 symptoms. Blood samples were collected from the individuals at the beginning of their admission and then again after six months.
The researchers also examined the patients’ clinical records for a span of 18 months. Ultimately, 55 of the patients developed what is commonly known as long COVID or severe post-COVID conditions.
The team analyzed the blood samples for changes in proteins, metabolites, and signs of inflammation. By using machine learning to review these changes, the researchers created a predictive model comprising 20 molecules.
With an accuracy rate of 83 percent, the model predicted the chances of adverse clinical outcomes once the patients were discharged.
The researchers said the most striking difference they found among patients was in plasma levels of taurine.
“Patients with lower levels of taurine had a lot more symptoms, more of them were hospitalized and there was an increased risk for mortality,” explained Oudit. “Patients that had high levels of taurine and maintained high levels of taurine in their blood had much fewer ongoing symptoms and did better.”
Taurine is an amino acid that can be found in dietary sources such as meat and fish. It is also naturally produced by the human liver. Beyond its role in various physiological functions, it plays a role in regulating the immune system.
While the potential of taurine supplementation seems promising for treating a spectrum of long COVID symptoms, Oudit advises patients against self-medication. He emphasizes that more research is needed – specifically human trials on the impact of taurine supplementation.
“Patients should not go out and start consuming taurine in high levels to help with long COVID,” said Professor Oudit. “Taurine supplements are relatively safe, but we need to get that evidence from a clinical trial.”
The study is published in the journal Cell Reports Medicine.
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