More than three-quarters of COVID-19 patients have at least one symptom six months after the disease, according to research published in “The Lancet.”
The study, which has analyzed the long-term effects of COVID-19 infection in people hospitalized in Wuhan (China), reveals that the most common symptom that persists is fatigue or muscle weakness (63% of patients), and patients also experience sleep difficulties (26%) and anxiety or depression in 23%.
Those who were seriously ill had a worse lung function and chest abnormalities detected on imaging tests, which could indicate organic damage, six months after the onset of symptoms.
In addition, the levels of neutralizing antibodies were reduced by more than half (52.5%) after this time in 94 patients whose immune response was evaluated at the peak of the infection, which raises concern about the possibility of reinfection.
Little is known about the long-term health effects of COVID-19, as few follow-up studies have been conducted so far. Those that have been carried out analyzed only a small number of cases during a short follow-up period (usually around three months after discharge).
“Because this is a new disease, we are beginning to understand some of its long-term effects on patients,” says Bin Cao of the China-Japan Friendship Hospital and Capita Medical University.
He adds: ‘Our analysis indicates that the majority of patients continue to live with at least some of the effects of the virus after leaving the hospital, highlighting the need for post-discharge care, particularly for those experiencing severe infections. . The work also underscores the importance of conducting longer follow-up studies in larger populations to understand the full spectrum of effects of COVID-19 in people.».
The new study included 1,733 COVID-19 patients who were discharged from Jin Yin-tan Hospital in Wuhan, China, between January 7 and May 29, 2020. The patients had a mean age of 57 years.
All were interviewed using questionnaires to assess their symptoms and related quality of life. They also underwent physical exams, lab tests, and a six-minute stress test to measure the patients’ endurance levels. Patients with more severe disease performed worse on the stress test.
The authors found that some patients developed kidney problems after discharge. In addition to the lungs, COVID-19 is known to affect other organs, including the kidney. Laboratory tests revealed that 13% (107/822) of patients whose kidney function was normal while in the hospital had reduced kidney function during follow-up.
In a linked comment, Monica Cortinovis, Norberto Perico and Giuseppe Remuzzi, from the Mario Negri IRCCS Institute of Pharmacological Research (Italy), point out that “the study of is relevant and timely”, although, they add, because only 4% entered in an intensive care unit, «information on long-term consequences in this particular cohort is inconclusive».