A blood test for long COVID could be only six months away after researchers from Imperial College London discovered distinct antibodies in patients with persistent symptoms.

The researchers discovered the presence of autoantibodies in patients with Long COVID, which were not observed in people who recovered quickly from the disease or who had not tested positive.

These autoantibodies – unlike typical antibodies – attack healthy cells by mistake, which can cause more damage and illness to the body.

In the preliminary study, researchers compared the blood of dozens of COVID-19 patients as well as individuals who have not had the virus.

Although the study is small, professor Danny Altmann – lead of the research team at Imperial College London – called the discovery ‘a very exciting advancement’.

“It’s hard to escape a prediction that 100,000 new infections a day equates to 10,000 to 20,000 long Covid cases a day, especially in young people. That’s a lot of damage to a lot of lives. And it’s hard to see that we’d have the healthcare provision to deal with it on that scale. All of us working on this could not be more alarmed,” said Altmann.

“I’m fairly optimistic, so I’d hope that within six months we’d have a simple blood test [for long COVID] that you could get from your GP,” he told BBC’s Panorma.