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Health minister's advisers recommend more research on long COVID after study

Health Minister Joe Phaahla’s COVID-19 advisory committee has made its first recommendations about long COVID, but conceded that many questions remain about the condition.

In a memo to Phaahla dated 27 May, committee heads Koleka Mlisana and Marian Jacobs said a study of adults hospitalised with COVID-19 found more than two-thirds reported an incomplete recovery three months after their acute illness.

BusinessLIVE reports that long COVID symptoms had also been detected in up to one-third of patients who had mild infections.

“On average, individuals experiencing long COVID function at 59% of their pre-COVID abilities, and more than 20% are unable to return to work. Poor quality of life is associated with prior ICU admission and fatigue.”

Risk factors for long COVID include advancing age, female, pre-existing comorbidities (including obesity, hypertension, diabetes mellitus and asthma), and immunodeficiency (including HIV and cancer).

“There are presently no registered or evidence-based therapeutic interventions available for treatment of long COVID,” pointed out Jacobs and Mlisana, “and no widely accepted definition of the condition in children.”

Without clinical guidelines or treatments, the advisory committee recommended various tests doctors could use for diagnosis: “Treatment strategies should be guided by the individual clinical presentation, and aimed at ameliorating symptoms until more directed therapies are available.”

The committee also suggested long COVID should be recognised as a medical condition by the Health Department to galvanise efforts to develop evidence-based clinical guidelines for the condition.

“The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) should be requested to establish a surveillance system to establish the incidence and prevalence of long COVID,” it said.

They also recommended:
• the health department prepare courses on long COVID for doctors;
• the College of Medicine be approached to consider a diploma in the management of COVID and long COVID; and
• the SA Medical Research Council issue a call for proposals looking at the epidemiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis and management of long COVID.

Symptoms include: fatigue, breathlessness, cognitive difficulties, muscle/joint pain, headache, persistent cough, chest pain, anxiety, depression and sleep disturbances.


BusinessLIVE article – Health minister’s advisers urge more research on long Covid (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Long COVID impacts heart, lung and kidney – Scottish study


Long COVID can trigger type 2 diabetes in some – VA cohort study


Long COVID breathlessness: Novel scans uncover hidden lung damage


Long COVID is ‘exaggerated’ and ‘overblown’


Long COVID: More than a quarter of patients still symptomatic after six months — Swiss study




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