Skip to main content

Free Content Long COVID: A proposed hypothesis-driven model of viral persistence for the pathophysiology of the syndrome


Long COVID (coronavirus disease 2019) syndrome includes a group of patients who, after infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), exhibit lingering mild-to-moderate symptoms and develop medical complications that can have lasting health problems. In this report, we propose a model for the pathophysiology of the long COVID presentation based on increased proinflammatory cytokine production that results from the persistence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus or one of its molecular components. Associated with this hyperproduction of inflammatory cytokines is a heightened activity of nuclear factor κ B (NF-κB) and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathways that regulate cytokine production.


The purpose of the present report was to review the causes of long COVID syndrome and suggest ways that can provide a basis for a better understanding of the clinical symptomatology for the of improved diagnostic and therapeutic procedures for the condition.


Extensive research was conducted in medical literature data bases by applying terms such as “long COVID” associated with “persistence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus” “spike protein' “COVID-19” and “biologic therapies.”

Results and Conclusions:

In this model of the long COVID syndrome, the persistence of SARS-CoV-2 is hypothesized to trigger a dysregulated immune system with subsequent heightened release of proinflammatory cytokines that lead to chronic low-grade inflammation and multiorgan symptomatology. The condition seems to have a genetic basis, which predisposes individuals to have a diminished immunologic capacity to completely clear the virus, with residual parts of the virus persisting. This persistence of virus and resultant hyperproduction of proinflammatory cytokines are proposed to form the basis of the syndrome.

Keywords: COVID-19; Cytokines; Long COVID; Long Hauler; NF-κB and p38 MAP kinase signaling pathways; inflammation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: From the Department of Woman and Child Health and Public Health, Fondazione Policlinico Universitario A. Gemelli Istituti di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico, Rome, Italy; 2: Pediatric Section, Department of Surgery, Dentistry, Paediatrics, and Gynaecology, University of Verona, Verona, Italy; 3: Department of Pediatrics, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington D.C.;

Publication date: May 1, 2022

More about this publication?
  • Allergy and Asthma Proceedings is a peer reviewed publication dedicated to distributing timely scientific research regarding advancements in the knowledge and practice of allergy, asthma and immunology. Its primary readership consists of allergists and pulmonologists.

    The goal of the Proceedings is to publish articles with a predominantly clinical focus which directly impact quality of care for patients with allergic disease and asthma and by having the potential to directly impact the quality of patient care. AAP welcomes the submission of original works including peer-reviewed original research and clinical trial results. Additionally, as the official journal of the Eastern Allergy Conference (EAC), AAP will publish content from EAC poster sessions as well as review articles derived from EAC lectures.

    Featured topics include asthma, rhinitis, sinusitis, food allergies, allergic skin diseases, diagnostic techniques, allergens, and treatment modalities. Published material includes peer-reviewed original research, clinical trials and review articles.

    Articles marked "F" offer free full text for personal noncommercial use only.

    The journal is indexed in Thomson Reuters Web of Science and Science Citation Index Expanded, plus the National Library of Medicine's PubMed service.
  • Editorial Board
  • Information for Authors
  • Submit a Paper
  • Information for Advertisers
  • Reprint Requests
  • Commercial level: Permission to use content
  • Ingenta Connect is not responsible for the content or availability of external websites
  • Access Key
  • Free content
  • Partial Free content
  • New content
  • Open access content
  • Partial Open access content
  • Subscribed content
  • Partial Subscribed content
  • Free trial content