Long Covid: Dr Sara Kayat discusses impact on children

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Covid long-haulers have described more than 200 symptoms that affect them for months or even years after an acute COVID-19 infection. It is becoming increasingly clear these threaten the well-being of patients, but it is less apparent what the risks are exactly. Now, a new study has provided evidence that three risky conditions “likely” to affect long Covid patients could predispose them to metabolic disturbances in the long run.

Millions of Covid patients have been afflicted by ongoing complications post-infection, but the extent of their symptoms has made the condition hard to define.

A new study conducted by the Swiss Armed Forces has found young people diagnosed with the syndrome are more likely to have increased cholesterol, high BMI and reduced levels of physical stamina.

The findings suggest this portion of the population may be more likely to develop metabolic disorders and cardiovascular issues in the long term.

The findings emerged from a study on the potential long Covid implications for young Swiss Military personnel.

The study comprised 464 male participants aged around 21 years old, 177 of whom had confirmed COVID-19 more than 180 days prior to testing day.

The researchers conducted a series of tests assessing cardiovascular, pulmonary, neurological, ophthalmological, male fertility, psychological and general systems.

Multi-organ function was examined using a sensitive test battery several months after Covid infection.

The study’s lead investigator, Patricia Schalgenhauf, said: “This combination of a unique test battery, a homogenous cohort and a control group makes this a very powerful, landmark study in the evidence base on long Covid in young adults.”

The results showed that healthy young adults tend to recover from mild infection, and are less likely to suffer complications in the long run.

However, the study highlighted a high prevalence of symptoms such as fatigue, altered sense of smell, and psychological problems lasting up to 180 days after infection.

Patients were equally more vulnerable to issues relating to fertility, but these effects were less significant for non-recent infections – more than 180 days back.

Science Daily reports that the study also uncovered a potentially “risky constellation” in patients with non-recent infections.

The study’s lead investigator, Patricia Schalgenhauf, said: “Increased BMI, high cholesterol and lower physical stamina is suggestive of a higher risk of developing metabolic disorders and possible cardiovascular complications.

“These results have society and public health effects and can be used to guide strategies for broad interdisciplinary evaluation of COVID-19 sequelae (long Covid), their management, curative treatments, and provision of support in young adult populations.”

It comes as recent studies have uncovered three subgroups of long Covid that appear across several coronavirus subvariants.

The discovery was detailed in a pre-print study published in MedRxiv in August 2022.

Researchers identified three distinct profiles, with long-term symptoms focused on neurological, respiratory or physical conditions.

Claire Steves, PhD, one of the authors of the study, said in a statement: “These data show clearly that post-Covid syndrome is not just one condition but appears to have several subtypes.

“Understanding the root causes of these subtypes may help in finding treatment strategies.”

She continued: “Moreover, these data emphasise the need for long Covid services to incorporate a personalised approach sensitive to the issue of each individual.”

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