Viral persistence, reactivation, and mechanisms of long COVID

Benjamin Chen, Boris Julg, Sindhu Mohandas, Steven B. Bradfute

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The COVID-19 global pandemic caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection has infected hundreds of millions of individuals. Following COVID-19 infection, a subset can develop a wide range of chronic symptoms affecting diverse organ systems referred to as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), also known as long COVID. A National Institutes of Health-sponsored initiative, RECOVER: Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery, has sought to understand the basis of long COVID in a large cohort. Given the range of symptoms that occur in long COVID, the mechanisms that may underlie these diverse symptoms may also be diverse. In this review, we focus on the emerging literature supporting the role(s) that viral persistence or reactivation of viruses may play in PASC. Persistence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA or antigens is reported in some organs, yet the mechanism by which they do so and how they may be associated with pathogenic immune responses is unclear. Understanding the mechanisms of persistence of RNA, antigen or other reactivated viruses and how they may relate to specific inflammatory responses that drive symptoms of PASC may provide a rationale for treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere86015
StatePublished - 2023


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