LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas is seeing a downward trend in COVID-19 cases throughout the state, but many are still suffering from the lingering aftereffects.
Months ago, a team of Arkansas doctors at UAMS may have identified a possible cause for these COVID patients, known as long-haulers.
The cause of the long-lasting COVID symptoms included an antibody that appears weeks after the initial infection and "attacks and disrupts a key regulator of the immune system" according to Dr. John Arthur, UAMS's Chief of the Nephrology Division.
Arthur's team of researchers has been busy since September as they're currently working on six different projects related to this study.
The studies consist of potential findings that could provide relief to many Arkansans, like Alanna Tatum, that are still struggling with these symptoms.
"It's crazy because I used to be a very busy person and I worked a full time job and I was in full time ministry and then I had do stuff with the kids. I was able to go, go, go," she said.
Tatum hasn't been that same energetic person in almost a year now though.
"I was diagnosed with COVID, officially, February 26 of 2021," she said.
Even though the virus may technically be out of Tatum's system, the symptoms are still lingering for Tatum.
"It's mostly like just the constant chest pain. A lot of the fatigue and exhaustion, and the brain fog is ridiculous," she said.
Tatum said even daily tasks are difficult for her to do now.
"Sometimes I forget how to use simple things, like I forget how to use the microwave," she said.
Tatum isn't alone in this, though.
According to Arthur, about 30% of patients deal with these lingering symptoms.
"It's something that's really affecting people and it's affecting a lot of people very dramatically. It's something that we can really make a difference with," he said.
Arthur's research team at UAMS is trying to create that change, through the several projects that they're working on.
Some of those projects include things such as collecting samples from long-haulers in order to check their antibody levels, along with having UAMS patients complete a survey about their symptoms.
"We'll ask a subgroup of those people that have filled in the survey to donate blood and see if they have antibodies levels of this ACE-2 antibody. That'll allow us to tie this whole thing together," he said.
The group asked for a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that could help fund these studies. Specifically, future studies that could lead to those possible treatments.
This is all geared towards finding a cure could come within a year if the teams are successful, according to Arthur.
"There are treatments coming, so I know that people are struggling with long-COVID and with the symptoms of long-COVID. Hang in there, it's gonna get better," he said.
If you'd like to take part in future research for long-haul COVID patients, you can register here.