Health & Wellbeing

Six-month "long COVID" study reveals 76% suffer lasting symptoms

Six-month "long COVID" study r...
New research studied nearly 2,000 patients six months after they were hospitalized with COVID-19
New research studied nearly 2,000 patients six months after they were hospitalized with COVID-19
View 1 Image
New research studied nearly 2,000 patients six months after they were hospitalized with COVID-19
1/1
New research studied nearly 2,000 patients six months after they were hospitalized with COVID-19

In the largest and longest follow-up study conducted to date investigating the lingering effects of COVID-19, researchers have found more than two-thirds of hospitalized patients report at least one ongoing symptom six months after contracting the disease.

Across much of 2020, doctors noted they were seeing some COVID-19 patients display enduring symptoms beyond the few weeks of acute disease. This condition is informally known as long COVID.

As 2020 progressed, a number of studies began to appear exploring the phenomenon of long COVID. But considering how fundamentally new this disease was, there was no clinical data to offer insights into how many people could experience persistent symptoms.

A new study, published recently in The Lancet, presents the largest and longest insight into long COVID published to date. The study encompasses 1,733 hospitalized COVID-19 patients from Wuhan, China. Each patient was followed for at least six months.

"Because COVID-19 is such a new disease, we are only beginning to understand some of its long-term effects on patients' health,” says Bin Cao, corresponding author on the new study. “Our analysis indicates that most patients continue to live with at least some of the effects of the virus after leaving hospital, and highlights a need for post-discharge care, particularly for those who experience severe infections.”

A striking 76 percent of all patients reported at least one continuing symptom six months later. The most common lasting problem was fatigue or muscle weakness, reported by 63 percent of all patients. Around a quarter of the cohort also reported sleep difficulties and anxiety or depression.

A smaller subset of the cohort completed comprehensive pulmonary testing and more than half displayed persistent chest imaging abnormalities. The degree of ongoing lung damage six months later correlated with the severity of the disease during the patients’ acute phase of hospitalization.

“Our work also underscores the importance of conducting longer follow-up studies in larger populations in order to understand the full spectrum of effects that COVID-19 can have on people,” says Cao.

A number of surveillance studies are ongoing, tracking the long-term effects of COVID-19. This particular new analysis is limited to hospitalized patients so it doesn’t offer any insight into how the disease can linger in milder cases.

As more time passes, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will hopefully become much clearer. Frances Williams, from King’s College London, suggests it will take time to separate the direct impact of the virus from the broader impact of the pandemic. But either way, Williams adds, the public health fall-out from COVID-19 will persist for years, if not decades.

“With so much having happened over the last year, we will need to tease apart which impacts stem from the virus itself versus which might be the consequence of the massive social disruption wrought by this pandemic,” writes Williams in a recent piece for The Conversation. “What is clear, however, is that long-term symptoms after COVID-19 are common, and that research into the causes and treatments of long COVID will likely be needed long after the outbreak itself has subsided.”

The new study was published in The Lancet.

Source: The Lancet

7 comments
AryehZelasko
There are two significant factors here. The first is the virus and the second is the hospitalization. Why do we assign all the long term damage to the virus when it is known that the initial treatment regime was wrong? To separate the causes, we need to study what long term effect occur on those who were sick but not hospitalized.
Jessica H
AryehZelasko, I agree. I am a long hauler and was not hospitalized. I had shortness of breath in February 2020 with normal O2 sats, no fever and had not traveled so I was not able to get tested due to perceived symptoms and minimal test kits available at the time. There are thousands like me, with what is considered mild, acute symptoms but more severe, post Covid symptoms. Most of us have all of the classic symptoms of dysautonomia but are being brushed off with a diagnosis of “anxiety”. We have heart and lung damage, clotting disorders, GI issues, neuropathy, inflammation throughout our bodies, just to name a few. But because we were not allowed to be tested, we have no positive diagnosis and, therefore, no appropriate care and/or very little research being conducted on our behalf. You do not have to be hospitalized to suffer from the long term effects of Covid. I speak for the long hauler community when I say, PLEASE EXPAND YOUR RESEARCH BEYOND HOSPITALIZED-ONLY PATIENTS.
nick101
Did these people have serious health issues when they got covid? What kind of treatment did they get? As the previous poster has astutely pointed out, what about the people who were sick and not hospitalized? I have heard of people getting very poor treatment in mainland Chinese hospitals, how about Hong Kong hospitals? How much can you trust The Lancet when they support the false idea that sex and gender aren't related?
Username
AryehZelasko - the study concentrated on patients who had severe symptoms. People with severe symptoms that were not hospitalized have death as a long term effect.
Kim
Yes, AryehZelasko and also 2 more factors .... there is an assumption that the virus wants to kill you but for healthy people it is a non event. 2nd, not many talk about the PM2.5, cyanide, and other pollutants that are tagged along. Those pollutants are what worry me.
tangential
I wonder how (or if) this result differs greatly from any other cohort of patients studied post-cytokine storm. The levels of inflammation reached in most hospitalized patients is extremely high. How much of this damage is from the body's reaction (inflammation) and how much is actually from the virus?
Bruce H. Anderson
It appears that Covid is more prevalent in the older portion of the population. Assuming that represents the majority of those hospitalized, I wonder if the age of those hospitalized had any correlation to the "long Covid" cases. And if no correlation by age, perhaps by co-morbidities.