Microbiome may influence severity of COVID-19, researchers say

Most COVID patients have ongoing symptoms       76% have at least one symptom six months later

Researchers in China say 76 percent of hospitalized COVID patients still experience at least one symptom of their illness six months later.

It found that fatigue or muscle weakness were the most common symptoms, while people also reported sleeping difficulties.

The study also found that patients who had more serious cases of COVID-19 were more likely to have impaired lung function over the long term.

There are also important aspects that the study doesn't delve into, such as the patients' cognitive or neurological functions; neither does it report whether any patients suffered from anxiety or depression before the onset of COVID-19.

"This is consistent with the syndemic nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has implications for the long-term follow-up of COVID-19 sequelae, which in most instances should be interpreted against a background of an array of non-communicable diseases and social and income inequalities that exacerbate the adverse effects of each of these diseases in many communities". Moreover, a follow-up study was conducted with the patients between June and September 2020. It found that these long haulers suffered 205 symptoms in 10 organs, with 66 symptoms that lasted over 7 months.

Chinese researchers looked at over 1,700 patients who were first diagnosed between January and May in Wuhan in China, where the virus was first reported. 13 per cent of patients who had normal kidney function in the hospital had reduced kidney function in the follow-up.

Healthcare professionals are becoming increasingly concerned that the long-term effects experienced by those COVID-19 patients who were hospitalised, may be underestimated. All were questioned face-to-face and they also underwent medical examinations, including physical examinations and a six-minute walking test to examine their endurance levels.

In the study, the scientists interviewed the hospitalised patients using questionnaires to assess their symptoms and health-related quality of life.

Science Alert reported that according to National Center for Respiratory Medicine's Bin Cao, also the study's senior author, since COVID-19 is such a new illness, "we are just beginning to understand some of its long-term impacts on the health of patients".

Along with common lung issues typical of coronavirus, the study discovered some patients developed kidney issues following their hospital stay.

"Our work also underscores the importance of conducting longer follow-up studies in larger populations in order to understand the full spectrum of effects that Covid-19 can have on people", he added. Patients who were severely ill had reduced lung function, with 56 per cent of them requiring ventilation support.

Follow-up blood antibody tests from 94 patients after six months revealed that levels of neutralising antibodies were 52.5 per cent lower than at the height of infection.

As the gut is the largest immunological organ in the body and its resident microbes are known to influence immune responses, the researchers investigated if the gut microbiome might also affect the immune system response to COVID-19 infection.

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