School of Medicine Publications and Presentations

Document Type


Publication Date



Similar to previous pandemics, COVID-19 has been succeeded by well-documented postinfectious sequelae, including chronic fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, myalgia, and concentration difficulties, which may last 5 to 12 weeks or longer after the acute phase of illness. Both the psychological stress of SARS-CoV-2 infection and being diagnosed with COVID-19 can upregulate cortisol, a stress hormone that disrupts the efferocytosis effectors, macrophages, and natural killer cells, leading to the excessive accumulation of senescent cells and disruption of biological barriers. This has been well-established in cancer patients who often experience unrelenting fatigue as well as gut and blood– brain barrier dysfunction upon treatment with senescence-inducing radiation or chemotherapy. In our previous research from 2020 and 2021, we linked COVID-19 to myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) via angiotensin II upregulation, premature endothelial senescence, intestinal barrier dysfunction, and microbial translocation from the gastrointestinal tract into the systemic circulation. In 2021 and 2022, these hypotheses were validated and SARS-CoV-2-induced cellular senescence as well as microbial translocation were documented in both acute SARS-CoV-2 infection, long COVID, and ME/CFS, connecting intestinal barrier dysfunction to disabling fatigue and specific infectious events. The purpose of this narrative review is to summarize what is currently known about host immune responses to translocated gut microbes and how these responses relate to fatiguing illnesses, including long COVID. To accomplish this goal, we examine the role of intestinal and blood–brain barriers in long COVID and other illnesses typified by chronic fatigue, with a special emphasis on commensal microbes functioning as viral reservoirs. Furthermore, we discuss the role of SARS-CoV-2/Mycoplasma coinfection in dysfunctional efferocytosis, emphasizing some potential novel treatment strategies, including the use of senotherapeutic drugs, HMGB1 inhibitors, Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) blockers, and membrane lipid replacement.


© 2022 by the authors.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Publication Title




Academic Level




To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.