More than three-quarters of people hospitalized with COVID-19 still suffered from at least one symptom after six months, according to a new study.
The study, published Saturday in the medical journal Lancet, included hundreds of patients in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the new coronavirus was first discovered.
Fatigue or muscle weakness have been found to be the most common symptoms, while people also report difficulty sleeping.
The researchers said the study – among the few to track long-term symptoms of COVID-19 – showed the need for further investigation into the long-term effects of the coronavirus.
“Because COVID-19 is such a new disease, we are just beginning to understand some of its long-term effects on patients̵
The professor said the study highlights the need to continue caring for patients after discharge from the hospital, especially those who have had severe infections.
The new study included 1,733 patients with COVID-19 discharged from Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan between January and May last year.
Patients with a mean age of 57 years were visited between June and September and answered questions about their symptoms and health-related quality of life.
The researchers also conducted physical examinations and laboratory tests.
The study found that 76 percent of patients who participated in follow-up (1265 out of 1655) said they still had symptoms.
Fatigue or muscle weakness were reported by 63 percent, while 26 percent had sleep problems.
The study also looked at 94 patients whose blood antibody levels were registered at the height of the infection as part of another study.
When these patients were retested after six months, their neutralizing antibody levels were 52.5% lower.
The authors say this raises concerns about the possibility of reinfection of COVID-19, although they say larger samples will be needed to find out how immunity to the virus changes over time.
The World Health Organization says the virus poses a risk to some people of serious lasting effects – even among young, otherwise healthy people who are not hospitalized. To date, there are more than 89 million confirmed cases of coronavirus, including about 1.9 million related deaths and 49.5 million recovered.
“Patients should be monitored for a period of six months or more due to complications from infection with the virus. This means that we will have even less capacity and less healthcare workforce to treat these people, “Oksana Puzik, a global health adviser and lecturer at UCL, told Al Jazeera.
“This will have implications for the care of any chronic disease,” such as cancer, Pusik said.
A commentary article also published in the Lancet, Monica Cortinovis, Norberto Perico and Giuseppe Remuzzi of the Italian Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri IRCCS said there was uncertainty about the long-term health consequences of the pandemic.
“Unfortunately, there are few reports on the clinical picture of the effects of COVID-19,” they said, adding that the latest study was “appropriate and timely.”
They said longer-term multidisciplinary research in the United States and the United Kingdom would help improve understanding and help develop therapies to “mitigate the long-term effects of COVID-19 on multiple organs and tissues.”