The scientists found that 76 % of patients reported at least one ongoing symptom during the follow up tests.
Of the 2,469 COVID-19 patients discharged, from the Jin Yin-tan Hospital in Wuhan, China, only 1,733 were eligible for the study that found that more than three-quarters of them had at least one persistent symptom six months later. Its goal was to describe the long-term health consequences of patients with COVID who have been discharged from hospitals and investigate the associated risk factors. A King's College study, which has not been reviewed, also stated that nearly 100 out of 4,000 COVID-19 patients didn't recover from the illness three months after they started experiencing symptoms.
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Fatigue or muscle weakness was reported by 63%, while 26% had sleep problems. Moreover, 45% of respondent said they had to reduce their workload as a result of their disabling symptoms while 22.3% said they could not work at all. Anxiety and depression was also reported among 23 per cent of the cases.
Those patients who were more severely ill during their time in hospital often displayed impaired lung function and abnormalities were detected during the chest imaging, indicating possible organ damage. "Our study shows that a large percentage of patients keep experiencing some of the symptoms of the disease months after they get discharged from the hospital".
Levels of neutralising antibodies fell by more than half (52.5 per cent) after six months in 94 patients whose immune response was tested at the peak of the infection.
They said longer term multidisciplinary research being conducted in the United States and Britain would help improve understanding and help develop therapies to "mitigate the long-term consequences of Covid-19 on multiple organs and tissues".
In a commentary published with the study, Giuseppe Remuzzi and colleagues with the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, Bergamo, Italy, noted that since just 4% of the study cohort required ICU treatment during hospitalization, the study by Huang et al. provides little information about long-term symptoms in this sicker patient population. "Our analysis indicates that most patients continue to live with at least some of the effects of the virus after leaving hospital, and highlights a need for post-discharge care, particularly for those who experience severe infections", commented Prof Bin Cao of the National Center for Respiratory Medicine in the China-Japan Friendship Hospital, Beijing.
The team explained, longer-term multidisciplinary study now being conducted would help in improving the understanding and development of treatments to alleviate the long-term effects of COVID-19 "on multiple tissues and organs".
"To our knowledge, this study is the largest cohort study with the longest follow-up duration for the consequences of adult patients discharged from hospital recovering from Covid-19", wrote researcher Chaolin Huang, of Jin Yin-tan Hospital, Wuhan, China, and colleagues in The Lancet, published online January 8.