Given recent findings that nearly one-third of previously hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the UK are readmitted for further treatment within five months after infection, and one in eight COVID-19 patients died in that same timeframe, further follow-up on the long-term effects of the disease needs to be conducted, along with treatments to prevent these outcomes, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
Johanna Swanson, Product Manager at GlobalData comments: “There is growing evidence that around one out of every ten people with COVID-19 will go on to experience ‘long COVID’, where symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, fevers, gastrointestinal issues, sleep disorders, ‘brain fog’, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression continue to exist for 12 weeks or longer. The proportion of people affected indicates that there could be hundreds of thousands of people affected in the UK.”
These long-lasting symptoms are supported by magnetic resonance imaging studies of around 200 long COVID patients at around four months after infection showed multi-organ involvement in the heart and lungs.
Swanson continues: “This damage could increase the risk of heart complications and heart failure for long COVID patients. COVID-19 patients can develop scar tissue on the lungs due to pneumonia, leading to long-term breathing problems, and can be affected by strokes, seizures and may have an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease.”
A study of 4,182 confirmed COVID-19 patients out of 2.6 million users of the COVID Symptom Study application in the US and UK with self-reported symptoms found that those who were older, female, had asthma, or experienced five or more symptoms were more likely to go on to develop long COVID. The application algorithm is 70% accurate in predicting the likelihood of developing long COVID.
Swanson adds: “These issues could be caused by inflammatory cytokine production or the pro-coagulation state induced by COVID-19, which can induce small clots in the capillaries. Similar long-lasting symptoms have been observed in other coronavirus survivors. Many severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) patients develop chronic fatigue, and some Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) patients exhibit similar persistent symptoms.”