It is estimated approximately 25-40% of individuals who have recovered from Covid will continue to experience Covid symptoms.1 These same Covid symptoms can also be seen after vaccinations. Most commonly symptoms are severe joint pains, cognitive decline, shortness of breath especially with exertion, and extreme fatigue.
The World Health Organization Forum in December 2020 estimated more than five million people worldwide were suffering from what has been termed Long Haul Covid, Long Covid, and/or Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC).2
The CDC describes Long Haul Post-COVID conditions as” a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks after being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19”.3
Theories of the Cause of Long Haul
Studies state a patient’s age, prior health, or severity of their case does not matter when it comes to Long Haul symptoms1
At RMC, however, all patients with Long Haul have an underlying auto-immune disorder or past cancer history. Also in common in this cohort of patients at RMC is a chronically elevated IgM for Covid antibodies. Normally, IgM will only stay elevated as an acute phase to Covid infection reactant for 3-21 days.
Multiple theories have arisen as to the underlying cause of Long Haul Covid. Many hypothesize the cause is due to a high inflammatory response in the body as the virus causes the immune system to re-program itself and go rogue. However, it’s been observed in RMC patients, as their inflammatory markers go down, symptoms still remain.
Research is being done to identify the reason behind the prolonged symptoms among Long Haulers. Many of these individuals are struggling and at a loss as they undergo significant testing for their various neurological, joint pain, respiratory and cognitive symptoms without many answers as to why they are still feeling symptoms and patients are provided minimal solutions for treatment.
Various medications including steroids, anti-depressants, and statins as well as alternative interventions such as vitamins, probiotics and immune boosting nutraceuticals have been used to treat residual Covid symptoms to no avail. The only medication offering any relief of symptoms has been chronic use of Prednisone. People were left to suffer with hope time would mitigate the symptoms.
Thymosin Alpha 1, a Peptide
Thymosin alpha 1 (Tα1) is a naturally occurring peptide produced by the thymus gland. It has been used and studied in a wide range of diseases including acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Hepatitis B and C, Epstein-Barr Virus, sepsis, various cancers, autoimmune disease, Lyme disease, cirrhosis and gastrointestinal disorders. “Multiple studies have shown promising results for the use of thymosin alpha 1 inpatients with metastatic melanoma, head and neck carcinoma, lung cancer, breast cancer, and hepatocellular carcinoma.”. 10
It is thought Tα1 acts by stimulating stem cells, inhibiting viral replication, and boosting T cell function critical to optimal immune system function. Tα1 production decreases with age.
Covid has been shown to cause a dysfunctional T cell response. This dysfunction leads to a dampened immune response and wide spread inflammation. Tα1 helps to restore the immune response by activating T cells and allowing the system to recognize the virus and kill it. It also decreases inflammatory responses in the body by decreasing cytokines associated with increased mortality and poor outcomes of Covid.4,5 Tα1 has been also shown to demonstrate anti-tumor activity, hence its use in cancer treatment.
Clinical Studies of Tα1 and Covid
Clinical studies of Tα1 use in the treatment of Covid are still limited but shows early promise in small sample sizes. Currently, there are three ongoing clinical trials registered assessing the use of Tα1 as treatment in Covid patients.6 As Tα1 has shown success against ARDS and SARS, two critical respiratory conditions secondary to viral infection, it may also have great success against Covid and early small trials have demonstrated this success.
A recent study demonstrated the positive effects of Tα1 in Covid Lymphopenia, which is a decrease in infection fighting white blood cells, a predictor of severe Covid disease. The study showed study participants after one week receiving daily Tα1 treatment, had a higher number of lymphocytes than those not treated.7 Supporting the findings of this study is another retrospective study of 76 severe Covid patients. The treatment group had successful restoration of T cell counts and reduced mortality after daily Tα1 treatment for one week. The researchers go on to suggest that healthy people over the age of 60 supplement with Tα1 to prevent infection.8,9
Adverse Effects and Contraindications
There are no side effects or adverse effects for Tα1 as it is natural to our bodies. The only relative contraindication is its use in transplant patients because of its immunomodulatory action.10
Hope for Covid Long Haulers
Millions of people worldwide are suffering from disabling Long Haul symptoms and have tried countless medications and interventions without much improvement or relief. Tα1 holds great promise for a multitude of diseases and now shows early promise in the prevention and treatment of acute Covid, and may also be a magic bullet for mitigating the prolonged suffering in Long Haulers who have tried many treatments to no avail.
RMC Long Haul Covid patients have seen the benefits of using Thymosin Alpha 1 as their chronic and debilitating symptoms go away and their energy is restored. To them, it has been a blessing, and in the long run is probably making them healthier than ever with a stronger immune system.