Study: If you had COVID, several of your organs could be aging 3-4 years faster

Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 10:58 PM EDT
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SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) - If you had COVID, chances are several of your organs could be aging three or four years faster.

A lead scientist behind a long-COVID study says getting infected multiple times could also worsen the aging process.

After more than two and a half years of COVID research, scientists say they are finally seeing the first data points that prove a dramatic change in human organs after a COVID infection.

“You can start thinking about getting COVID almost as an accelerant to aging. The viral infection accelerates the aging process in people,” said Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, director of the Clinical Epidemiology Center and chief of research and education service with St. Louis Health Care.

Al-Aly has gathered data from millions of people across the country through studies that include kidney, brain and heart outcomes with long COVID.

All reportedly showed similar patterns, pointing to multiple human organs aging faster after COVID, with the majority happening in those who were hospitalized but also some with mild COVID symptoms.

“We have seen that people are losing about three to four percent kidney function in the year following that infection. That usually happens with three to four years of aging,” Al-Aly said.

Dr. Michael Peluso, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, was recently shown that research.

Peluso’s team was one of the first in the country to begin long-COVID research in April 2020. The doctor said his team has an idea of why some organs may be experiencing aging or injury after COVID.

“Some of the theories for what may be causing long-COVID symptoms include the persistence of the virus. So, instead of the virus coming and going, it sticks around causing inflammation, auto-immune problems and changes in the microbiome,” Peluso said.

Even though more years of data are necessary, Al-Aly believes this increased aging process will stop.

“My hunch from the data and my hope is that it eventually flattens out. There are some early indications that this may be the case and that the kidney function decline flattens out with time,” Al-Aly said.