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Long Covid victim discusses daily impact of virus

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It is widely accepted how COVID-19 affects us immediately after the initial infection. Most people are wary of the symptoms that can occur. However, three years on since the start of the pandemic, we are still learning about the long-term effects of the disease.

A new study of more than 530 long Covid patients has shown that organ damage persisted in 59 percent of them a whole year after initial symptoms.

This was even true in those not severely affected when first diagnosed with the virus.

The paper, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, indocin a focused on patients reporting extreme breathlessness, cognitive dysfunction and poor health-related quality of life.

Of the 536 participants, 13 percent were hospitalised when first diagnosed with COVID-19, and 32 percent were healthcare workers.

The research, by scientists from the UK, noted that 331 patients (62 percent) were identified with organ impairment six months after their initial diagnosis.

These patients were followed up six months later with a 40-minute multi-organ MRI scan, analysed in Oxford.

This confirmed that 29 percent of patients with long Covid had multi-organ impairment, with persistent symptoms and reduced function at six and 12 months, and 59 percent had single organ impairment 12 months after initial diagnosis.

One of the researchers, Professor Amitava Banerjee from the UCL Institute of Health Informatics, said: “Symptoms were common at six and 12 months and associated with female gender, younger age and single organ impairment.”

The most commonly affected organ was the liver with 29 percent of patients experiencing liver impairment.

Also affected were the heart, kidney, pancreas and spleen.

Surprisingly the lungs were the least commonly affected, with damage suffered by just two percent.

The study also reported how some patients saw a reduction in symptoms between six and 12 months after infection.

In this time extreme breathlessness went from affecting 38 percent to 30 percent of patients, while cognitive dysfunction went from 48 percent to 38 percent of patients.

Professor Banerjee added: “Several studies confirm persistence of symptoms in individuals with long Covid up to one year.

“We now add that three in five people with long Covid have impairment in at least one organ, and one in four have impairment in two or more organs, in some cases without symptoms.

“Impact on quality of life and time off work, particularly in healthcare workers, is a major concern for individuals, health systems and economies.

“Many healthcare workers in our study had no prior illness, but of 172 such participants, 19 were still symptomatic at follow-up and off work at a median of 180 days.”

The underlying mechanisms of long Covid are still not fully understood, say the researchers, who did not find evidence by symptoms, blood investigations or MRI to clearly define long Covid subtypes.

They say that future research must consider associations between symptoms, multi-organ impairment and function in larger cohorts.

Professor Banerjee concluded: “Organ impairment in long Covid has implications for symptoms, quality of life and longer-term health, signalling the need for prevention and integrated care for long Covid patients.”

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