Long COVID: Damage to Multiple Organs Recorded in Some Cases
In a significant new study, young and previously healthy individuals with ongoing COVID-19 symptoms are showing evidence of damage to multiple organs of their bodies, four months after contracting the initial infection.
The study investigates further into symptoms that remain in the patients for an extended period of time. Long-COVID is being described as the long-lasting effects or prolonged symptoms in people who have ‘recovered’ from the disease.
According to a report by The Guardian, the Coverscan study examines this impact on the organ health of nearly 500 low-risk individuals (young and without underlying health issues), who continue to have COVID symptoms. This is done using several methods such as MRI scans, blood tests, questionnaires, among others.
Early data from the first 200 people screened found impairments in one or more organs in 70% of the patients. These include organs such as the lungs, heart, liver and pancreas.
Dr 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, 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.”Dr Amitava Banerjee
In a few of these cases, a correlation was found between the symptoms and the site of impairment. For instance, gastrointestinal symptoms with pancreas and breathlessness linked with heart or lung damage.
“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,” Banerjee said.
A word of caution here. The study is yet to be peer-reviewed, and none of the patients studied had been scanned for organ damage before they had COVID-19 - so it is possible the damage existed beforehand, even though this is unlikely. The individuals will be continued to be monitored, and a comparison would also be made with those who haven’t had COVID or who have had other viral infections such as the flu.
Danny Altmann, a professor of immunology at Imperial College London, was quoted in The Guardian report as saying,
“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.”
FIT had earlier described in an explainer all that ‘long COVID’ entails. Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, a senior consultant of internal medicine at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, had said, “We are discovering that this disease is not just for 2 weeks or 14 days. We see the effects lingering for 4-6 weeks to more in some patients, and the severe cases can go up to 4 months.”
(With inputs from The Guardian)
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