One in ten people suffer from long-term effects of COVID-19 months after mild infection: study

A woman walks past graffiti in Mumbai amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Francis Mascarenhas / Reuters

New Delhi: Eight months after mild COVID-19, one in ten people experience at least one moderate to severe symptom that is perceived to have a negative impact on their work, social or personal life, according to a study.

The study, published in the journal JAMA, have found that the most common long-term symptoms are loss of smell and taste, and fatigue.

Researchers at Danderyd Hospital and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden have been carrying out the so-called COMMUNITY study since the spring of last year, with the main aim of examining immunity after COVID-19.

“We studied the presence of long-term symptoms after mild COVID-19 in a group of relatively young, healthy, active individuals, and we found that the predominant long-term symptoms are loss of smell and taste, ”said Charlotte Thalin, Principal Investigator. for the COMMUNITY study at Danderyd Hospital and Karolinska Institute.

“Fatigue and breathing problems are also more common in participants who have had COVID-19 but do not occur to the same extent,” Thalin said.

In the first phase of the study, blood samples were taken from 2,149 employees at Danderyd Hospital, approximately 19% of whom had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.

Researchers took blood samples every four months, and study participants answered questionnaires regarding long-term symptoms and their impact on quality of life.

In the third follow-up in January this year, the team looked at the self-reported presence of long-term symptoms and their impact on the work, social and home life of participants who had had mild COVID-19 in the past. at least eight months earlier.

This group consisted of 323 health workers – 83% women with a median age of 43 – and was compared to 1,072 health workers comprising 86% women with a median age of 47 who did not have COVID -19 throughout the study period.

The results show that 26% of those who had previously had COVID-19, compared to 9% in the control group, had at least one moderate to severe symptom that lasted more than two months.

About 11%, compared with 2% in the control group, had at least one symptom with a negative impact on work, social or family life that lasted at least eight months, according to the researchers.

The most common long-term symptoms were loss of smell and taste, fatigue, and breathing problems, they said.

However, researchers did not find an increase in the prevalence of cognitive symptoms such as brain fatigue, problems with memory and concentration, or physical disorders such as muscle and joint pain, heart palpitations or fever. long-term.

Despite the fact that study participants had mild COVID-19 infection, a relatively large proportion reported long-term symptoms impacting quality of life, they said.

“In light of this, we believe that young and healthy individuals, as well as other groups in society, should have great respect for the virus which appears to be able to significantly affect the quality of life, even for a long time. after infection, ”said Sebastian Havervall, doctoral student with the project at the Karolinska Institute.

The researchers said the COMMUNITY study will continue, with the next follow-up taking place in May, when a large proportion of study participants are expected to be vaccinated.