Covid horror: One-in-five people with long symptoms suffer cardiac issues six months on

Long Covid victim discusses daily impact of virus

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Sufferers of long Covid, or “post-COVID-19 syndrome”, appear to experience various symptoms — often including fatigue, brain fog and shortness of breath — and organ impairments that can last for weeks or months after initial coronavirus infection. These issues can occur even in patients whose Covid symptoms were initially mild. COVID-19 itself is known to lead to cardiovascular complications, and a number of cross-sectional studies have shown that the same can occur with long Covid. However, more research into how these manifestations change with time is needed to better understand the full impacts of long Covid.

The study was conducted by clinical data science expert Professor Amitava Banerjee of University College London and her colleagues.

The team recruited 534 UK-based individuals with long Covid and assessed the function and structure of their cardiovascular system using MRI at six months after they first exhibited symptoms.

Of these, 330 exhibited unusual scan results in comparison with healthy controls and so were reassessed after 12.6 months.

Alongside both scans, the researchers also collected records of the symptoms the patients reported experiencing and took blood samples for analysis.

The researchers found that 102 of the subjects, or 19 percent, had some form of cardiac impairment other than myocarditis — inflammation of the heart muscle — six months after their initial infections with SARS-CoV-2.

Of these individuals, 71 were included in the group that received the follow-up scan, and 58 percent of them were found to have ongoing cardiac issues more than a year after infection.

The team noted that conventional cardiac-related blood biomarkers were not predictive of cardiac impairment resulting from long Covid.

However, they did find that long Covid patients with a low left ventricular ejection fraction — a measure of how well the left ventricle pumps blood — six months after coronavirus infection were more likely to still be suffering from cardiac impairment another six months later.

The team also noted that the cardiac issues seen six months after contracting Covid appeared tended to be more severe in those patients who has been hospitalised as a result of a severe initial infection.

There also appeared to be a gender disparity at play.

The researchers said: “Our results indicate that, despite women being more affected by Long COVID, men have higher risk of cardiac impairment.”

While further studies may be needed to determine exactly why this is, possible explanations could include sex-based differences in the ACE2 receptor that SARS-Cov-2 targets, the regulation of immune responses and patterns of coagulation, drinking and smoking.

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The news comes as, on Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that he cannot rule out the possibility of future lockdowns in the event a new and deadly Covid variant were to emerge.

Mr Johnson told GB News: “I think it would be irresponsible of any leader in any democracy to say that they’re going to rule out something that can save lives.

“I’ve got to be absolutely frank with you, there could be a new more deadly variant — there could be a variant that affects children — that we really need to contain.

“I’m not going to take any options off the table. But I don’t think it will happen.”

A pre-print of the article, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, can be read on the medRxiv repository.

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