One in eight adults who have had Covid-19 has long-lasting symptoms. The information was released in a study published in the scientific journal “The Lancet” this Thursday (4).
To analyze, the study relied on an approach that compared patients with “long Covid”, the one in which symptoms take time to pass, and an uninfected population. This is one of the first studies to use this type of comparison. For experts, the inclusion of the uninfected public allows for a more assertive prediction of the prevalence of symptoms of Covid-19 in the long term, in addition to better identification of the main related symptoms.
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The symptoms analyzed were the most frequent characteristics in patients with long-term Covid, such as respiratory problems, muscle pain, chest pain, fatigue and loss of smell or taste that were pre-existing at diagnosis and or even in people who were not diagnosed.
“This method allows us to take into account pre-existing symptoms and manifestations in uninfected people to offer an improved working definition for long-term Covid and provide a reliable estimate of how long the disease is likely to last in the general population,” explains Judith Rosmalen. from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, lead author of the study, in a note.
To conduct the survey, more than 76,400 adults in the Netherlands completed an online questionnaire on 23 typical symptoms of prolonged Covid between March 2020 and August 2021, with each participant completing the questionnaire 24 times.
With more than 4,200 people infected with Covid-19, representing 5.5% of the respondents to the questionnaire, more than 21% had at least one more severe symptom increased after three or more weeks of infection. However, 8.7% of people who did not contract the disease also pointed to the same situation. Therefore, researchers believe that 12.7% of infected patients, that is, almost one in eight, suffered from long-term symptoms.
Aranka Ballering, also from the Dutch University of Groningen, says that “by looking at symptoms in an uninfected control group and in individuals before and after SARS-CoV-2 infection, we were able to explain symptoms that may have been a result of health aspects non-infectious diseases of the pandemic, such as the stress caused by restrictions and uncertainties”.
Despite the interesting data, the authors acknowledge that there are still limitations in the study, such as the fact that it only analyzed patients infected with the Alpha variant or previous strains, excluding cases of the Delta or Ômicron variant. In addition, the study is based on the population of a specific region of the Netherlands, without many ethnic variations.
However, researchers at the Institute of Lung Health at the University of Leicester in the UK, who were not involved with the study, point to the research as a major breakthrough.
“The survey includes a corresponding uninfected group and takes into account symptoms before 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 characteristic of those with long-term Covid versus uninfected controls,” they stated. Christopher Brightling and Rachael Evans.