76% of COVID-19 patients have lingering symptoms: Study
More than three quarters of COVID-19 patients have at least one ongoing symptom six months after initially becoming unwell, according to research published in The Lancet.
The cohort study, looking at long-term effects of COVID-19 infection on people hospitalised in Wuhan, China, reveals that the most common symptom to persist is fatigue or muscle weakness (63% of patients), with patients also frequently experiencing sleep difficulties (26%). Anxiety or depression was reported among 23% of patients.
Patients who were severely ill in hospital more often had impaired lung function and abnormalities detected in chest imaging - which could indicate organ damage - six months after symptom onset.
Levels of neutralising antibodies fell by more than half (52.5%) after six months in 94 patients whose immune response was tested at the peak of the infection, raising concerns about the possibility of being re-infected by the virus.
Little is known about the long-term health effects of COVID-19 as few follow-up studies have so far been carried out. Those that have been conducted looked only at a small number of cases over a short follow-up period (typically around three months after discharge).
Professor Bin Cao, from National Center for Respiratory Medicine, China-Japan Friendship Hospital and Capital Medical University, said: "Because COVID-19 is such a new disease, we are only beginning to understand some of its long-term effects on patients' health.”
“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. 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 new study included 1,733 COVID-19 patients who were discharged from Jin Yin-tan Hospital in Wuhan, China, between January 7th and May 29th 2020. Patients had a median age of 57 years. Follow-up visits were done from June 16th to September 3rd, 2020, and the median follow-up time was 186 days.