Long-term COVID: 1 in 8 people suffer from symptoms, according to a new study in The Lancet

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A comparative study was conducted in the Netherlands with patients with COVID-19 and people without. What health effects are there and what needs more research?

A Dutch study found that one in eight adults (12.7%) infected with COVID-19 experienced long-term symptoms / REUTERS / Eva Plevier
A Dutch study found that one in eight adults (12.7%) infected with COVID-19 experienced long-term symptoms / REUTERS / Eva Plevier

It is known that having COVID-19 can cause side effects. Some take a few weeks. Others more than a year. But how many people actually have Prolonged COVID or long-term COVID is still under investigation. A new study conducted in the Netherlands and published in the prestigious journal Lancet revealed One in eight (12.7%) adults infected with COVID-19 experience long-term symptoms.

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The study was carried out by researchers at the University of Groningen and Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands. It provided one of the first comparisons of long-term symptoms after coronavirus infection with symptoms in an uninfected population. It also measured symptoms in individuals before and after COVID-19 infection.

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Including uninfected populations allows for a more accurate estimation of the long-term prevalence of COVID-19 symptoms, as well as better identification of the main symptoms of Prolonged COVID. “There is an urgent need for data reporting the scale and extent of long-term symptoms experienced by some patients following the COVID-19 illness.” Professor Judith Rosmalen of the University of Groningen said, lead author of the study.

They included uninfected populations to better define the main symptoms of prolonged COVID (Getty).
They included uninfected populations to better define the main symptoms of prolonged COVID (Getty).
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“Again“Most previous research on long-term COVID-19 has not looked at the frequency of these symptoms in people who have not been diagnosed with COVID-19 or looked at individual patient symptoms prior to a COVID-19 diagnosis.” he warned.

Dr. Rosmalen added: “The focus of our work is examining the symptoms most commonly associated with Prolonged COVID-19, including respiratory problems, fatigue, and loss of taste and/or smell, both before and in people who were not diagnosed with COVID-19. was diagnosed with it. This method allows us to consider pre-existing symptoms and symptoms in uninfected individuals to provide an improved working definition for Long-Term COVID-19 and to provide a reliable estimate of the likelihood of Long-Term COVID-19 occurring in the general population. “

In this new study, conducted in the Netherlands, researchers collected data by asking participants in the population-based Lifelines COVID-19 cohort to regularly complete digital questionnaires about 23 symptoms usually associated with Prolonged COVID-19.

The survey was sent to the same people 24 times between March 2020 and August 2021, meaning that participants with COVID-19 were infected with the Alpha variant of the coronavirus or earlier variants during that time. Most of the data were collected prior to the COVID-19 vaccination schedule in the Netherlands, so the number of participants vaccinated was too small to be analyzed in this study.

The survey was answered 24 times between March 2020 and August 2021.  During this time, they became infected with the Alpha variant or earlier variants of the coronavirus / File
The survey was answered 24 times between March 2020 and August 2021. During this time, they became infected with the Alpha variant or earlier variants of the coronavirus / File

Participants were registered as positive for COVID-19 if they had a positive COVID-19 test or medical diagnosis. Of the 76,422 participants, 4,231 (5.5%) participants with COVID-19 were matched with 8,462 controls based on gender, age, and time of completing questionnaires showing the diagnosis of COVID-19.

The researchers found that several symptoms were new or more severe three to five months after they had COVID-19 compared to the symptoms before the diagnosis of COVID-19 and the control group, suggesting that these symptoms may be considered the main symptoms of long-term COVID-19.

The main symptoms recorded were chest pain, shortness of breath, pain when breathing, muscle pain, loss of taste and/or smell, tingling in the hands/feet, lump in the throat, alternating feeling of hot and cold, heaviness in the arms. and/or legs and general fatigue. The severity of these symptoms stabilized three months after infection and there was no further reduction. Other symptoms that did not increase significantly three to five months after the COVID-19 diagnosis included headache, itchy eyes, dizziness, backache, and nausea.

12.7% of COVID-19 patients were found to have new or severely increased symptoms three months after COVID-19.
12.7% of COVID-19 patients were found to have new or severely increased symptoms three months after COVID-19.

Aranka Ballering, first author of the study, said: “These key symptoms have important implications for future research, as they can be used to distinguish between the post-COVID-19 condition and non-COVID-19-related symptoms.”

The researchers found that of study participants who submitted data on pre-COVID-19 symptoms, 21.4% (381/1,782) of COVID-19 positive participants experienced at least one increase, compared with 8.7% (361/4,130) in the control group. 3 months or more after coronavirus infection with moderate central symptoms. This means that in 12.7% of COVID-19 patients, new or severely increased symptoms can be attributed to infection three months after COVID-19.

“Looking at symptoms in an uninfected control group and individuals both before and after coronavirus infection, symptoms that may arise from non-communicable health aspects of the pandemic, such as stress and uncertainty due to restrictions,” Ballering said. “The post-COVID-19 situation, Prolonged COVID, is a pressing issue for the growing number of human victims. Understanding the core symptoms and prevalence after COVID-19 in the general population is an important step in our ability to design studies that can ultimately inform successful health responses to the long-term symptoms of COVID-19. highlighted.

The authors of the study acknowledge that the mental fog that COVID-19 can create needs further investigation./ Photo: Christin Klose/dpa
The authors of the study acknowledge that the mental fog that COVID-19 can create needs further investigation./ Photo: Christin Klose/dpa

The authors acknowledge some of the limitations of the study. This study included patients infected with the Alpha variant or earlier variants, and there are no data on subjects infected during the period when Delta or Omicron variants are most infectious. Also, due to asymptomatic infection, the prevalence of COVID-19 in this study may be underestimated. Another limitation of this study is that other symptoms have been detected since the beginning of data collection, Like brain fog, it is potentially relevant to the prolonged definition of COVID, but this study did not look at these symptoms. Additionally, the study was conducted in one region and did not include an ethnically diverse population.

Professor Judith Rosmalen pointed “Future research should include mental health symptoms (for example, symptoms of depression and anxiety) alongside other post-infection symptoms (such as brain fog, insomnia, and post-performance weakness) that we were not able to assess in this study. We were not able to investigate what might cause any of the symptoms seen after COVID-19 in this study, but we hope future research can provide insight into the mechanisms involved. Also, due to the timing of this study, we were unable to evaluate the effect of vaccination against COVID-19 and different coronavirus variants on long-term symptoms of COVID. We hope future studies will provide answers about the impact of these factors.”

In a linked comment on the published paper Lancet Professor Christopher Brightling and Dr Rachael Evans, from the University of Leicester Institute of Lung Health (who were not involved in the research), said: “This is a major improvement over previous estimates of COVID-19 prevalence and takes into account symptoms prior to COVID-19 infection. The pattern of symptomatology observed by Ballering and colleagues was similar to previous reports, with fatigue and shortness of breath among the most common symptoms, but interestingly other symptoms such as chest pain were more a feature in people with prolonged COVID compared to uninfected controls. Long COVID noted that the Brightling and Evaens case definition “potentially needs further refinement to identify the different types of Long COVID for which a better mechanistic understanding is critical.”

Source: Info Bae

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