Most Covid-19 patients’ symptoms persist 6 months: Wuhan study
Published: 01:07 PM, 9 January 2021
More than three-quarters of hospitalised Covid-19 patients still suffered from at least one symptom after six months of infection, according to a study published in the medical journal The Lancet on Saturday.
The study was conducted on 1,733 people who were hospitalized with Covid-19 between January and May last year in Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, China - where the virus was first detected. The patients, who had an average age of 57, were visited between June and September and answered questions on their symptoms and health-related quality of life. Researchers also conducted physical examinations and lab tests.
The study found that 76 percent of patients who participated in the follow-up (1,265 of 1,655) said they still had symptoms. Of them, 63 percent still experienced fatigue or muscle weakness half a year after their acute illness, while 26 percent had sleep difficulties and 23 percent had anxiety or depression.
It also found that patients who were severely ill in the hospital were more likely to have impaired lung function and abnormalities detected in chest imaging six months after symptom onset. This, according to the researchers, could indicate organ damage.
The study also looked at 94 patients whose blood antibody levels were recorded at the height of the infection as part of another trial.
When these patients were retested after six months, their levels of neutralising antibodies were 52.5 percent lower.
The authors said this raises concerns about the possibility of Covid-19 re-infection, although they said larger samples would be needed to clarify how immunity to the virus changes over time.
“Because Covid-19 is such a new disease, we are only beginning to understand some of its long-term effects on patients’ health,” said lead author Bin Cao, of the National Center for Respiratory Medicine.
The professor said the research highlighted the need for ongoing care for patients after they have been discharged from hospital, particularly those who have had severe infections.
“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,” he added.
The World Health Organization has said the virus poses a risk for some people of serious ongoing effects - even among young, otherwise healthy people who were not hospitalised.
In a comment article also published in the Lancet, Monica Cortinovis, Norberto Perico, and Giuseppe Remuzzi, from Italy’s Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri IRCCS, said there was uncertainty over the long-term health consequences of the pandemic.
“Unfortunately, there are few reports on the clinical picture of the aftermath of Covid-19,” they said, adding the latest study was, therefore “relevant and timely”.
They said longer-term multidisciplinary research being conducted in the United States and Britain would help improve understanding and help develop therapies to “mitigate the long-term consequences of COVID-19 on multiple organs and tissues”. - AFP, Bloomberg