More than 75 percent of coronavirus patients have at least one symptom six months after becoming ill, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that the most common symptom of coronavirus patients was fatigue and muscle weakness, reported in at least two-thirds of patients.
Additionally, of about 400 patients tested for lung function, more than half who needed ventilation had severe scores six months out – which could indicate permanent organ damage.
What’s more, antibody levels tested in 100 patients fell by more than half during follow-up, which the team, from Jin Yin-tan Hospital at the Wuhan Research Center for Communicable Disease Diagnosis and Treatment in China, says raises questions about the potential of reinfection.
A new study from Jin Yin-tan Hospital in China found more than 75% of patients reported at least one symptom six months later, with the most common being fatigue and muscle weakness among 63%. Pictured: Dr Thomas Yadegar checks the vital signs of Mindy Cross while her husband Dr Neil Hecht (right) rests in a bed next to her at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center in Tarzana, California, January 2021
Among 100 patients tested for antibody levels, most had levels reduced by half, which raises questions about the potential for reinfection (above)
For the study, published in The Lancet, the team looked at 1,733 COVID-19 patients who were discharged from Jin Yin-tan Hospital between January 7 and May 29.
They were followed up with from June 16 to September 3 with a median of 186 days after the onset of symptoms.
Patients were interviewed in person using questionnaires that evaluated their symptoms and their health-related quality of life.
In addition, they were given physical examinations, underwent laboratory blood tests and had to perform a six-minute walking test to gauge endurance levels.
A total of 76 percent of patients – more than 1,200 – reported at least one symptom at follow-up.
Results showed that the most common symptom to persist was fatigue or muscle weakness, found in 63 percent of patients six months later.
The next most common long-lasting symptom was difficulty sleeping, reported in 26 percent of patients.
Another 23 percent said they were experiencing anxiety or depression long after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
The next most commonly reported symptoms were hair loss and taste disorder, seen in 22 percent and 11 percent of patients, respectively.
Other symptoms reported – in less than 10 percent – included palpitations, joint pain, decrease appetite, taste disorder and dizziness.
Researchers also found that patients who had more severe illness when they were hospitalized had reduced lung function.
Of the 349 patients who completed a lung function test, 56 percent of those who had required ventilation had the most severe scores on a scale of one to six.
Along with abnormalities in chest imaging, reduced lung function could indicate permanent organ damage.
This was not just seen in the lungs. About 13 percent of patients who had normal kidney function while hospitalized had a reduction during the follow-up.
During the six-minute walking test, one-third of those who needed mechanical ventilation walked less than the lower limit of the normal range.
Lastly, researchers looked at levels of neutralizing antibodies among 94 patients tested at the peak of infection.
Results showed that levels fell by more than half – 52.5 percent – after six months, which raised concerns about the potential for reinfection.
‘Because Covid-19 is such a new disease, we are only beginning to understand some of its long-term effects on patients’ health,’ Professor Bin Cao, from the National Center for Respiratory Medicine at the Chin-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing, told the Press Association.
‘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.’