‘Long Covid’ patients suffer multiple organ damage months after infection, docs warn

PATIENTS with so-called "Long Covid" can suffer multiple organ damage for months after infection, doctors have warned.

Half a million Brits are understood to be struggling with lingering symptoms of Covid-19, including fatigue, breathlessness and pain.

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But new research into 500 "low-risk" individuals revealed that the bug can have a long-lasting effect on some of the major organs.

The Coverscan study found that of the first 200 patients to undergo screening, 70 per cent had damage in one or more organs, including the heart, lungs, liver and pancreas.

Amitava Banerjee, a cardiologist and associate professor of clinical data science at University College London, said: "The good news is that the impairment is mild, but even with a conservative lens, there is some impairment.

"This is of interest because we need to know if [the impairments] continue or improve — or if there is a subgroup of people who could get worse."

LINGERING SYMPTOMS

The study, which involves 201 people with an average age of 44 and no major underlying health issues, uses MRI scans, blood tests, physical measurements and online questionnaires.

Researchers found that on average 197 people said they had suffered fatigue, 176 had experienced muscle ache and 166 had headaches.

They noted that in some instances, heart or lung damage was linked with breathlessness, while damage to the liver or pancreas were associated with gastrointestinal symptoms.

Dr Banerjee added: "It supports the idea that there is an insult at organ level, and potentially multi-organ level, which is detectable, and which could help to explain at least some of the symptoms and the trajectory of the disease."

What is Long Covid?

At the start of 2020 Covid-19 was new and unknown to most of the world and experts say there is still much that needs to be understood about the virus, including its side effects.

Dr Ben Littlewood-Hillsdon, chief medical officer of symptom assessment tool Doctorlink said one aspect of Covid-19 which is yet to be fully understood is its longevity.

"Firstly, it’s important to know that ‘long-Covid’ is not an official medical term, but a colloquial term being used to describe people whose symptoms go on for longer than the two-week symptom period officially recognised by WHO.

"As with the acute stage of the disease, the long-term symptoms are still far from being fully understood."

He added that it's important to understand that "long-Covid is yet to be officially recognised medically".

What are the symptoms?

The all-party parliamentary group (APPG) of MPs on the coronavirus have listed 16 symptoms.

  • Hair loss
  • High temperature
  • Diarrhoea
  • Exhaustion
  • Chest pain
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations
  • Covid toes
  • Chills
  • Disorientation
  • Cognitive problems
  • Breathing issues
  • Muscle or body aches
  • A heart rate of more than 100 beats a minute (Tachycardia)
  • Vomiting
  • Issues with your heart rate or its rhythm (Arrhythmia)

He cautioned that none of the patients was scanned before developing coronavirus, so some may have had previous health problems.

It comes as the NHS announced it is to set up more than 40 specialists clinics in England for those suffering with the long-term effects of Covid.

The 43 clinics will bring together doctors, nurses, therapists and other NHS staff to assess those experiencing long Covid.

Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said the health service needed to mobilise to help long Covid patients in the same way that it dealt with coronavirus infections in March.

He said: "Long Covid is already having a very serious impact on many people’s lives and could well go on to affect hundreds of thousands."

A recent study by King's College London found that people still suffered from muscle pain, loss of taste and smell, and excessive tiredness for 12 weeks or more after catching the virus.

Long Covid is already having a very serious impact on many people’s lives and could well go on to affect hundreds of thousands

Despite not having exact figures, MPs have been told that up to 500,000 people in Britain are living with the long-term effects of Covid.

NHS England has now provided £10million to fund the 43 specialist long Covid centres, in order to aid those still suffering the consequences of the virus.

Some will take the form of mini-hospitals, set up inside larger hospitals, while others will be based in NHS sites and clinics at GP surgeries.

Of the 43 centres, 13 are already open – with ten coming to the Midlands, seven in the northwest of England and six in the east.

London will have five long Covid centres, the southwest and southeast will both have six, and the northwest will have three.

Meanwhile, long Covid has been officially recognised by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, the body which decides the treatments and drugs NHS patients can use.

 

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