NEW research has surprisingly discovered that individuals suffering long-lasting effects from COVID-19, known as ‘long COVID’, are predisposed to developing only seven health symptoms, namely fast-beating heart, hair loss, fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, joint pain, and obesity, for up to 1 year post-infection. Adnan Qureshi, co-author of the study and a Professor of Neurology at the University of Missouri (MU) School of Medicine, revealed that the concept of long COVID was established to describe individuals who were ‘survivors of COVID-19’ but were ‘not necessarily normal anymore’. They added, “the survivors still have symptoms that are at times disabling and preventing them from going back to work or the activities of their daily life.”
Chi-Ren Shyu, lead author of the study and director of the MU Institute for Data Science and Informatics, and colleagues, reviewed real-world data from Oracle Cerner, which contains anonymised information for medical research purposes. They examined data from a total of 52,461 patients at 122 healthcare facilities across the USA and selected the top 47 most reported health symptoms from long COVID to examine. The researchers searched for any comparisons in the reported health symptoms among individuals in three different groups: individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 but who did not have any common viral respiratory infections like influenza or pneumonia, individuals with common viral respiratory infections but who did not have COVID-19, and individuals who did not have COVID-19 or any other common viral respiratory infections.
Shyu stated: “Despite an overwhelming number of long COVID symptoms previously reported by other studies, we only found a few symptoms specifically related to an infection from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, the virus that causes COVID-19.” They added, “before we examined the data, I thought we would find an ample amount of the symptoms to be specifically associated with long COVID, but that wasn’t the case.”
Shyu expects that researchers will now be able to better understand how “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 may mutate or evolve by creating new connections that we may not have known about before.” Going forward, Shyu also speculates that “electronic medical records can be used to rapidly detect subgroups of patients who may have long-term health conditions.” The findings of this study will provide healthcare professionals with highly important information about what to examine and ask for when approached by a patient with long COVID symptoms.