Project Team

Resia Pretorius, PhD, Distinguished Professor and Department Head of Physiological Sciences, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

Massimo Nunes, PhD student, Master of Science, Stellenbosch University

Tom Usher, PhD student, Master of Science, Stellenbosch University

Amy Proal, PhD, President/Microbiologist, PolyBio Research Foundation

Project summary: 

Project lead Dr. Resia Pretorius

A study employing advanced fluorescence microscopy to determine if fibrinaliod microclots isolated from Long COVID and ME/CFS blood contain bacterial biofilm. Specific fluorescent markers are being used to determine if identified biofilm co-localizes with fibrinaloid areas in the microclots. The project team will also develop novel high-throughput methods for quantifying biofilm microclot detection via their lab’s newly-acquired Metasystems device that produces extremely high-quality images. The study is running in parallel with this PolyBio-supported project that is using sequencing technologies to search for pathogens and their proteins in Long COVID microclots.

Project Background: 

When bacteria drive chronic disease processes, they often do so by acting together. Disease-driving bacteria can form into biofilm: clusters of bacteria that are attached to each other and embedded into a self-produced matrix. The protective matrix allows the biofilm bacteria to be more resilient in the face of the human immune system, antibiotics, and other treatments. Interestingly, fibrin – a main component of Long COVID and ME/CFS microclots – is also an important substance found in the biofilm protective matrix. This suggests that the fibrin portion of Long COVID and ME/CFS microclots might contain bacterial biofilm. Indeed some Long COVID and. ME/CFS patients report that taking antifibrinolytic supplements such as nattokinase helps with symptoms that may be related to microclot burden. These same antifibrionolytic supplements have also been shown to target and break up bacterial biofilm. It follows that analysis of Long COVID and ME/CFS microclots for the presence of bacterial biofilm could provide another important clue about their structure. The project should help determine the extent to which biofilm disrupting drugs/supplements could be used in Long COVID clinical trials aimed at microclot disruption.