A study in the United Kingdom has discovered signs of organ damage in young and formerly healthy people who have ongoing symptoms of COVID-19, writes Sarah Wilson for Wigan Today.
The study – which aims to find out more about the condition known as ‘long COVID’ – has released preliminary data from screenings of 200 people with the ongoing illness, thought to be affecting more than 60,000 people in the United Kingdom.
The data shows that almost 70% of those screened have impairments in one organ or more (including the lungs, heart, pancreas and liver) four months after the initial infection.
‘Two or more organs affected in 25% of people’
The data comes from the Coverscan Study of Perspectum, which is running research intending to assess the impact of COVID-19 on organ health in those belonging to ‘low risk’ categories for the virus. This includes sufferers who are relatively young, without any underlying health issues.
According to the Wigan Today article published on 17 November 2020, patients in the study were screened through a combination of physical measurements, MRI scans, online questionnaires and blood tests, with 500 taking part in total.
The most commonly reported symptoms of long COVID are breathlessness, fatigue, brain fog and pain. The study showed that, in some cases, there was a correlation between the site of organ impairment and the symptoms.
Breathlessness, for instance, might be correlated with damage to lungs or the heart, while gastrointestinal symptoms might be associated with the liver or pancreas.
Amitava Banerjee, a cardiologist and associate professor of clinical data science at University College London, told Wigan Today that the “good news” was that impairments observed in patients were generally mild.
However, she added, “even with a conservative lens, there is some impairment, and in 25% of people it affects two or more organs.”
“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,” she explained.
More research needed
Wigan Today writes that important to note, however, that the study doesn’t prove the organ impairments are the cause of ongoing symptoms. The data also hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed.
Banerjee noted that, given patients weren’t screened prior to catching coronavirus, some may have had existing health issues – although this is fairly unlikely, given their relative youth and previous good health. The age of the participants was an average of 44.
The new findings could have some impact on how long COVID is manage in the UK, suggesting that closer collaboration is needed between medical specialists if patients have multiple organ damage.
“Sending the people you need to the cardiologist, and then to the gastroenterologist, and then to the neurologist would be an inefficient way to deal with things as the pandemic continues,” said Banerjee.
“What all the people in the world with long Covid are crying out for is to be taken seriously and to have some idea of what might be going on at the organ level – so to begin to assemble some kind of evidence base is absolutely the way to go,” said Danny Altmann, a professor of immunology at Imperial College London.
“I think this is a first step in a long journey towards providing some kind of mechanism [for their symptoms], and eventually some therapeutics for people with long Covid.”
Wigan Today story: Long COVID could cause multiple organ damage – The study explained
Coverscan Study website