Could This Amino Acid Solve the Long COVID Mystery?

Taurine isn't just an ingredient in energy drinks. It could also hold the key to understanding the life-altering condition known as long COVID.


Long COVID, a condition affecting 10 to 30% of individuals recovering from SARS-CoV-2 infection, has left the medical community in pursuit of answers. It’s characterized by a persistent range of symptoms, often resembling chronic fatigue and cognitive impairment.

A groundbreaking study from the University of Alberta not only illuminates the nature of long COVID but also introduces a promising predictive test that provides insight into who may develop long-term symptoms.

Led by Dr. Gavin Oudit, a professor in the faculty of medicine and dentistry at U of A, the research team has identified an amino acid, taurine, as a potential prognostic marker for long COVID. The results of the study were published in Cell Reports Medicine.

The researchers closely monitored 117 individuals hospitalized due to acute SARS-CoV-2 infection. These patients were observed during their initial hospitalization and again six months later. The results were striking, with only 30 out of 117 participants reporting a complete resolution of symptoms. This highlights the significant burden long COVID imposes on those who have endured acute infection, with symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, cognitive impairment, and mood disturbance persisting.

The study delved into blood samples, analyzing changes in proteins, metabolites, and inflammation-associated markers. Using these results, the researchers developed a predictive model employing machine learning. Astonishingly, the model predicted adverse outcomes with 83% accuracy. Among the markers assessed, taurine — an amino acid — exhibited a striking association with adverse clinical outcomes.

Taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in various tissues throughout the human body. It is involved in supporting neurological function, regulating the cardiovascular system, and reducing inflammation. While taurine is found in certain foods and energy drinks, the body can synthesize it naturally. Researchers are increasingly interested in taurine’s potential therapeutic benefits.

This study found that lower taurine levels were closely linked to more severe long COVID symptoms, increased rates of hospitalization, and even elevated mortality risk. While the exact role of taurine in the development and progression of long COVID remains under ongoing investigation, these findings open the door for clinical trials to explore taurine’s therapeutic potential further.

While the battle against long COVID persists, this new predictive test promises substantial impact. By honing in on taurine levels, researchers have unearthed a promising avenue for comprehending and managing long COVID. Although further studies and clinical trials are requisite, this breakthrough takes us one step closer to effectively mitigating this debilitating condition.

The journey may be long, but with each discovery, we draw nearer to providing relief for those affected by long COVID.

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Sumayya Abdul Qadir is a PhD student in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto where she also earned her Bsc in Molecular Genetics and Immunology. Sumayya’s passion for science communication is driven by the desire to bridge the gap between complex scientific concepts and the general public, fostering understanding, curiosity, and engagement with the wonders of the scientific world.