65 million people affected: Long Covid is likely to be a lifetime sickness

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Corona infection now seems like no big deal to many. But covid-19 is followed by long covid in about ten percent of all cases. A new study summarizes the current research state and comes to worrying conclusions.

Around 65 million people worldwide are thought to suffer from the late effects of corona disease. This is the conclusion of an overview study published a few days ago in Nature Reviews Microbiology journal. Scientists from the Patient-Led Research Collaborative and the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, in the U.S. state of California, suspect that about ten percent of the approximately 651 million people infected worldwide are affected. However, the number is probably even higher due to many undocumented cases.

Study: One in ten Corona patients suffers from Long Covid
This would make Long Covid or Post Covid much more serious than previously thought. In Germany alone, it is now assumed that at least one million people suffer from long-term consequences of the infection. For their study, the researchers evaluated current studies on the subject. They also included results from decades of research on diseases such as myalgic encephalomyelitis (M.E.) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Long covid was a more colloquial term for symptoms that persist or re-emerge beyond the acute illness phase of four weeks of Sars-CoV-2 infection. Post covid is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the persistence or development of symptoms three months after corona infection. In this context, symptoms must persist for at least two months and be unexplained by any other diagnosis. The two terms are often used equally for the longer-term consequences of corona infection and covid-19 disease. More than 200 symptoms, often of varying severity, have now been identified, according to the Nature study. Many sufferers report fatigue, exhaustion, shortness of breath, concentration memory problems, or muscle weakness.

In the meantime, hundreds of biomedical findings have been documented. These show that many patients have dozens of symptoms in several organ systems. In addition, symptoms constantly change, subside temporarily, and then return. “Symptoms can persist for years, and especially in cases of new-onset ME/CFS and dysautonomia, they are likely to be lifelong,” it says. Of particular concern, the researchers note, is that there are no treatments yet proven to be effective.

According to this evaluation, secondary diseases affect 10 to 30 percent of non-hospitalized cases, 50 to 70 percent of people who were hospitalized, and also 10 and 12 percent of vaccinated patients. However, the research is not yet detailed on the last point. One study sees no significant difference in long-covid symptoms in vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Other studies suggest vaccination reduces the risk of long covid to 15 and 41 percent.

The U.S. research team said that all ages could be affected, and any severity of Covid 19 disease can later lead to a secondary illness. They said the highest percentage of diagnoses is between the ages of 36 and 50, and most cases have been documented in non-hospitalized patients with a mild course of the disease. The researchers attribute this to the fact that this population represents most Covid 19 cases.

Urgent search for treatment options
Potential risk factors include female gender, type 2 diabetes, reactivation of a previous Epstein-Barr infection, and the presence of specific autoantibodies. However, no preexisting conditions were identified in one-third of people with Long Covid. Socioeconomic risk factors identified by the team included lower income and “inability to rest adequately in the first few weeks after developing covid-19.”

In the end, multiple, overlapping causes are likely responsible for the complex symptom picture and often significant limitations. Long Covid, he said, is a multisystemic disease with effects on multiple organ systems as well as vascular and coagulation abnormalities. He said the disease already affects millions of people, and the number continues to grow.

In particular, he said, decades of research on chronic fatigue syndrome suggest that a significant proportion of people with long covid are at risk of lifelong disability if no action is taken. The authors call current “diagnostic and treatment options” “inadequate.” They say that numerous clinical trials are urgently needed to test treatments that address possible biological mechanisms underlying the disease. The team of experts also includes excessive blood clotting and autoimmunity.

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