One in eight people infected develop persistent covid

One in eight adults (specifically, 12.7%) infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes covid-19, show long-term symptoms of this disease.

This is suggested by a study conducted by around twenty Dutch researchers, most of them from the University Medical Center of Groningen (Netherlands), and published this Friday in the journal ‘The Lancet’.

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This work offers one of the first comparisons of long-term symptoms after covid-19 infection –often referred to as covid- compared to a non-ill population, in addition to measuring symptoms in individuals before and after contagion.

Inclusion of uninfected populations allows more accurate prediction of prevalence of persistent covid symptomsas well as a better identification of its main effects.

“There is an urgent need for data that informs the scale and the extent of long-term symptoms experienced by some patients after the covid-19 illness,” says Judith rosmalen, from the University of Groningen and lead author of the study.

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Rosmalen adds that “however, most previous research on persistent covid did not analyze the frequency of these symptoms in people not diagnosed with covid-19 nor did they analyze the symptoms of individual patients before the diagnosis of covid-19”.

“Our research approach analyzes the symptoms most commonly associated with prolonged covid, including breathing problems, fatigue, and loss of taste and/or smell, both before a diagnosis of covid-19 and in people who have not received diagnosis of covid-19 19.

This method allows us be aware of pre-existing symptoms and symptoms in uninfected people to offer an improved working definition of persistent covid and provide a reliable estimate of the likelihood of covid-19 persisting in the general population,” he explains.


The researchers collected data from online questionnaires on 23 symptoms usually associated with persistent covid. Questions were sent 24 times to the same people between March 2020 and August 2021meaning that participants who had covid-19 during this time were infected with the alpha variant of SARS-CoV-2 or earlier variants.

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Most of the data was collected before the launch of the covid-19 e vaccineIn the Netherlands, the number of vaccinated participants was therefore too small to be analyzed in the study.

Participants were registered as sick with covid-19 if they had a positive test or a medical diagnosis of the disease. enough tos 76,422 participants, A total of 4,231 (5.5%) respondents who had covid-19 underwent 8,462 controls taking into account gender, age and time of filling in questionnaires that indicated a diagnosis of covid-19. 19.

The researchers found that several symptoms were new or more severe between three and five months after contracting covid-19, compared to symptoms before a diagnosis of the disease and to the control group (not sick), suggesting that these symptoms can be considered the main symptoms of persistent covid.

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basic symptoms chest pain, shortness of breath, pain in breathing, muscle aches, loss of taste and/or smell, tingling in the hands/feet, lump in the throat, alternating hot and cold sensations, heaviness in the arms and/or legs and general fatigue. The severity of these symptoms stabilized three months after infection and no longer diminished.

Other symptoms that did not increase significantly from three to five months dafter being diagnosed with covid-19 included headache, itchy eyes, dizziness, back pain and nausea.

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“These main symptoms have important implications for the future to researchas these symptoms can be used to distinguish between post-COVID-19 status and non-COVID-19 related symptoms,” said Aranka Ballering, first author of the study.


Among study participants who had data on pre-COVID-19 symptoms, researchers found that 21.4% (381 of 1,782) of participants tested positive for the disease, compared to 8.7% (361 of 4 130) of the non-ill group, they experiencedl least an increase in the main symptoms of moderate severity at least three months after infection.

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This implies that in 12.7% of patients with covid-19, lNew or greatly increased symptoms three months after illness can be attributed to SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The authors acknowledge some limitations to the study, which included patients infected with the alpha variant or other precedents of SARS-CoV-2 and does not have data on people infected with the delta or omicron variants.

Also, ddue to asymptomatic infection, the prevalence of covid-19 in the study may be underestimated. Another limitation is that since data collection began, other symptoms – brain fog, for example – have been identified as potentially relevant to a definition of persistent covid, but the research did not look into these symptoms.

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“Future research should includego mental health symptoms (for example, symptoms of depression and anxiety), as well as additional post-infection symptoms that we could not assess in this study (such as mental confusion, insomnia and malaise). We were unable to investigate what might be causing any of the symptoms seen after covid-19 in this study, but hope that future research can shed light on the mechanisms involved.”

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