A new Canadian study has found that a quarter of people with persistent COVID are still experiencing at least one symptom a year later.
The majority of people who struggle with prolonged COVID are found to have recovered within 12 months, no matter how severe their symptoms, offering some hope for recovery rates.
But people with persistent symptoms were more likely to have higher levels of a marker for autoimmune disorders, suggesting that persistent symptoms may need more attention to recover.
“In general, people should not worry if they feel unwell immediately after being infected, because the chances of recovery within 12 months are very high and only because you have typical persistent COVID symptoms after three months. doesn’t mean they will last forever.” Manali Mukherjee, assistant professor of medicine at McMaster University and lead author of the study, said in a press release.
“However, research highlights that after 12 months, if you are still feeling unwell and symptoms persist or get worse, you should definitely seek medical attention.”
Prolonged COVID is the term for people dealing with a range of different persistent symptoms for more than 12 weeks after recovering from COVID-19 infection, from crippling fatigue to muscle aches to neurological problems . According to the World Health Organization, anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of people with COVID-19 have experienced some form of persistent COVID.
For this study, published in the peer-reviewed European Respiratory Journal, researchers from McMaster and the University of British Columbia focused on three of the most common symptoms: fatigue, cough and difficulty breathing.
To study recovery, the researchers looked at 106 people recovering from COVID-19 infection, tested three, six, and 12 months after the patient contracted the virus. All patients were healthy, with no pre-existing medical conditions.
The researchers wanted to see if a specific type of antibody produced when a person’s immune system incorrectly attacks itself is present in people recovering from COVID-19 and whether the antibodies whether this antinuclear (ANA) is associated with an autoimmune disorder. development of long-term COVID in the patient.
They found that compared with an age- and sex-matched control group, people with COVID-19 had more ANA in their body three months after recovery.
The number of ANAs decreased over time from 3 to 12 months in general COVID-19 patients. But those who still reported persistent fatigue, severe coughing, or shortness of breath were more likely to still have higher levels of ANA in their body.
Mukherjee said in the release that people who are struggling with COVID for a year or longer should see a rheumatologist because they specialize in autoimmune disorders. Currently, due to a persistent lack of knowledge about COVID, many patients may seek help only from respiratory specialists or infectious disease specialists, but the matter may require assistance. more expertise if it continues.
“Sometimes, while the body is fighting a virus, the immune system gets so boosted that in addition to making antibodies that kill the virus, it can also make antibodies,” says Mukherjee. attack the host”.
“However, the general tendency of the body after fighting a serious virus like SARS-CoV-2 is to recover, and this process often varies from person to person.”
The study says the fact that the continued presence of high ANA levels in patients after 12 months is associated with persistent symptoms and inflammation suggests a role for autoimmunity in persistent COVID. needs more attention.
For a closer look, Mukherjee is leading the upcoming ‘Autoimmunity in Post-Acute COVID Syndrome’ study, funded by the federal government. This study is currently recruiting participants, as is the Canadian Respiratory Research Network’s ongoing COVID study.