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Long COVID, characterized by lingering symptoms long after the acute phase of the virus, has raised many questions. One of the most common is: Do Long COVID patients continue to test positive for COVID-19? In general, those with Long COVID do not continue to test positive for the virus, but that isn’t always the case.
Let’s delve into the latest research to learn more.
Do Long COVID Patients Continue to Test Positive?
The short answer is: not usually. Most people who recover from COVID-19 will no longer test positive for the virus on a PCR or antigen test after a certain period, typically a few weeks. This is because these tests detect the presence of the virus in the body, and once the acute infection has resolved, the virus is typically no longer present in quantities that these tests can detect. (Viral persistence, however, is one theory behind Long COVID and viral reservoirs have been found in body tissue long after the acute infection is gone, however these reservoirs are not detectable through traditional COVID testing.).
However, it’s important to note that testing positive for COVID-19 and having Long COVID are two separate things. Long COVID is characterized by the persistence of symptoms, not the persistence of the virus itself.
What About Positive COVID Antibody Tests?
Antibody tests, which look for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in the blood, can remain positive for months or even longer after a person has recovered from COVID-19. This is because antibodies are part of the body’s immune response to the virus and can persist long after the infection has cleared.
However, a positive antibody test does not necessarily mean a person has Long COVID. It simply indicates that the person was infected with the virus at some point.
The Mystery of Persistent Positive Tests
In rare cases, some individuals with Long COVID have reported persistently positive PCR or antigen tests. The reasons for this are not entirely clear and are the subject of ongoing research. It’s possible that in some cases, remnants of the virus may linger in the body, leading to a positive test result. However, this does not necessarily mean the person is still infectious.
Long COVID and COVID Testing
While Long COVID is a complex and evolving condition, current evidence suggests that most individuals with Long COVID do not continue to test positive for the virus on PCR or antigen tests. However, they may test positive on an antibody test, indicating past infection.
If you’re experiencing persistent symptoms after recovering from COVID-19, it’s essential to seek medical attention. Long COVID is a real condition, and understanding it is key to managing symptoms and improving quality of life.
RTHM clinicians are actively following all the new Long COVID research and continue to implement new treatment options based on emerging science. To learn more about RTHM and the services our telehealth clinic offers, check out How It Works.
Join the RTHM Community to stay up-to-date on Long COVID and other complex illness research that continues to unravel the mysteries of Long COVID and similar chronic conditions.
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