Blood drive specialist Niilo Juntunen removes the IV from recovered coronavirus patient Monica Jacobs as she completes donating convalescent plasma at the Central Seattle Donor Center of Bloodworks Northwest during the global coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19 ), in Seattle, Washington, September 2, 2020.
Lindsey Wasson | Reuters
A new study has identified the main factors that make patients more likely to suffer from the coronavirus in the long term.
“Long Covid” is the term given to people who have had a confirmed (or suspected) case of coronavirus and who are recovering from the initial infection but continue to suffer from a wide range of symptoms, shortness of breath and migraines to chronic fatigue.
A new analysis by researchers at King’s College London, using data from the COVID Symptom Study app, shows “that one in 20 people with Covid-19 is likely to experience symptoms for 8 weeks or more.”
The study, published on Wednesday, looked at data from 4,182 users of the COVID Symptom Study app who had tested positive for the virus and had regularly recorded their health status.
The team found that older or overweight people, women, people with asthma and those who had a greater number of different symptoms during the first week of their illness were more likely to develop ‘long Covid’.
Taking a closer look at the risk factors, the study by King’s researchers found that long-term Covid affects around 10% of 18-49 year olds who are unwell with Covid-19, with the percentage of those affected rising to 22% for those over 70 years old. .
Weight also plays a role, as it affects people with a slightly higher average BMI (body mass index).
Women were much more likely to suffer from a long-term Covid than men (14.5% vs. 9.5%), but only in the younger age group.
The researchers also found that people reporting a wide range of initial symptoms were more likely to develop long-term Covid, as were people with asthma, although there is no clear link to other problems with underlying health.
With regard to commonly reported symptoms of long Covid, research has identified two main groups of symptoms; One was dominated by respiratory symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath, fatigue and headaches.
The second group “was clearly multi-system, affecting many parts of the body, including the brain, gut, and heart,” King’s noted.
The researchers have now used these results, which are expected to be published as a preprint on Medrxiv (distributes unpublished health sciences eprints) and have yet to be peer reviewed, to develop a model that can predict who is most at risk. duration of Covid by examining an individual’s age, gender and number of early symptoms.
Lead researchers Dr Claire Steves and Professor Tim Spector said the research could be used to help target early interventions and research aimed at preventing and treating long-term Covid.
“It is important that we use the knowledge we gained from the first wave of the pandemic to reduce the long-term impact of the second,” noted Steves, clinical scholar and lead author of the study.
“This research could already pave the way for long-term prevention and treatment strategies for Covid. We urge everyone to join the effort by downloading the app and taking just a minute each day to register your health.”
Long Covid is by no means a universal experience and in fact, many people who have contracted the novel coronavirus have had mild illness or have been asymptomatic.
King researchers found that while most people with Covid-19 reported returning to normal in 11 days or less, about one in seven people (13.3%, 558 users) had symptoms of Covid- 19 for at least four weeks, with about one in 20. (4.5%, 189 users) staying sick for eight weeks and one in 50 (2.3%, 95 users) suffering for more than 12 weeks.
“These are conservative estimates, which, due to the strict definitions used, may underestimate the extent of Long-Covid,” King warned.
The UK’s National Health Service announced earlier in October that it would be provide specialist help in clinics to those suffering from long-term symptoms of the coronavirus.