COVID-19 infections have taken a back seat due to milder symptoms (for now). Growing concerns about monkeypox have overshadowed the hazards of the SARs-CoV-2 virus, which has haunted us for over two years.
Having said that, researchers continue to caution against the devastating aftereffects of coronavirus infection, often known as ‘long COVID.’ It refers to a wide range of symptoms and conditions that occur weeks or months following a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19.
A recent study discovered three forms of long COVID, each with its own set of symptoms that appear to be shared by numerous coronavirus subtypes. Here’s what you need to know.
Long COVID has been challenging to define due to its wide range of symptoms, but King’s College London researchers have found three distinct profiles, with long-term symptoms centered on neurological, respiratory, or physical issues. They have discovered patterns in people infected with the original coronavirus strain, the Alpha variant, and the Delta variant so far.
The findings clearly suggest that post-COVID syndrome is more than one condition, with several subtypes.
Understanding the underlying causes of these subtypes may aid in developing therapeutic solutions. Furthermore, these findings highlight the importance of long-COVID treatments with a personalized approach that is sensitive to the issues of each individual.
The researchers examined data from the ZOE Health Study, which included 1,459 participants who had COVID-19 for more than 84 days.
- They discovered that most people experienced a cluster of nervous system symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, and headaches. It was the most prevalent subtype among the Alpha variant (dominant in winter 2020-2021) and the Delta variant (dominant in 2021).
- The second group experienced respiratory symptoms like chest pain and severe shortness of breath, which could indicate lung damage. It was the largest cluster for the original coronavirus strain in spring 2020, when people were unvaccinated.
- People in the third group complained of a wide variety of physical symptoms, such as heart palpitations, aches and pains in their muscles, as well as changes to their skin and hair. Some of the “most severe and disabling multi-organ symptoms” were present in this group.
Based on the so far examined variants, the research showed that the subtypes were similar in vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. However, the evidence indicated that vaccination decreased the likelihood of long COVID.
Other symptom clusters, like those in the stomach and intestines, had slight variations among the variants even though the three subtypes were present in all of them. According to the researchers, the variations could result from other factors that altered due to the pandemic, such as the season, societal customs, and medical interventions.
Marc Modat, PhD, who supervised the analysis and is a senior lecturer at King’s College London’s School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences, said in a statement, “Machine learning approaches, such as clustering analysis, have made it possible to start exploring and identifying different profiles of the post-COVID syndrome.”
“This enables new research pathways to understand COVID-19 better and to encourage clinical research that may mitigate the disease’s long-term impacts,” he added.
- What are the 3 main types of long COVID?. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/what-are-the-3-main-types-of-long-covid
- Long COVID Comes in Three Forms: Study. Available at: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/978469?src=soc_fb_220803_mscpedt_news_mdscp_longcovid&faf=1