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203 symptoms associated with Covid affect all body systems

Amy Durant got her first appointment at the NHS Long-Term Covid Clinic in July — 16 months after she became ill. But the ten-minute consultation offered her little reassurance.
Since a mild illness caused by the Corona virus last year that did not get her to the hospital, the 32-year-old book editor has spent weeks in bed, taken sick leave from work that lasted months, and is increasingly doubting that she will never fully recover.
Durant is among more than 380,000 people with long-term COVID-19 in the UK who have battled the disease for more than a year, according to the Office for National Statistics. Various official studies indicate that between 3 and 37 percent of people infected with Covid-19 have symptoms that last at least 12 weeks.
“I feel stuck,” says Durant, who has the hallmark symptoms of shortness of breath, confusion and fatigue. “My body is always in a combative mode and I need some way to stop it, but (scientists) clearly haven’t figured it out.”
For physicians tasked with diagnosing and treating long-term COVID disease, this condition has often left them with many unresolved questions, like their patients. A study published in the “Lancet” journal, identified 203 symptoms associated with the disease affecting nearly all 11 body systems.
“It’s definitely not as confusing as it was at first, but it’s still pretty puzzling,” says Melissa Heitman, a respiratory consultant who heads the UK’s oldest post-Covid clinic, based at London University College Hospital.
Health authorities around the world are pumping huge sums of money to fund research into this disease, giving hope that some of the long-standing secrets of Covid will soon be revealed.
The UK’s National Institute for Health Research has spent £50m on long-term Covid-19 studies, while the US National Institutes of Health has pledged a total of $1.15bn in research funding over the next four years.
A team led by Hetman is conducting the largest study of its kind on more than 4,500 people with long-term symptoms of Covid who have never been hospitalized. This study will analyze diagnostic tests, such as MRI scans, look at the effectiveness of at least three existing drug treatments, and monitor patients’ rehabilitation through a symptom-tracking app.
“What was really worrying was the huge number of young patients in their 30s and 40s who were previously fit and healthy, and despite the mildness of the disease at first, their lives were derailed by this condition,” Hettmann says.
Stephen Dix, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who studies long-term Covid disease, believes that this particular group of patients is “likely to have an answer to the underlying puzzle” of the condition.
There are different sets of symptoms that researchers are trying to identify, Dix says, by looking at patients who are in and out of the hospital. The next step is to analyze the different groups of symptoms, which range from heart and lung problems to neurological problems and hormonal complications. “Prolonged COVID-19 is an umbrella term for multiple mechanisms,” says Dix.
“We’ll start to see what biology is affected by these studies,” he says. “Some patients have normal tissue damage, others have inflammatory disease and some may have an autoimmune reaction.”
It is also being explored whether vaccines protect against long-term Covid disease, given the “breakthrough infection” observed among those who received both doses of the vaccine. “When Covid becomes chronic, that becomes the most important question of all,” says Dix.
In a recent positive development, the team behind Zoe, the UK’s Covid tracker, has found that the odds of a fully vaccinated person contracting Covid with persistent symptoms for more than four weeks are halved. Between December 2020 and July 2021, only 5 percent of 592 people infected with Covid developed symptoms after four weeks, compared to 11 percent among the 2,762 unvaccinated people who tested positive for the virus.
Researchers are also studying whether vaccination may provide a cure for the long-term Covid virus. Anecdotal evidence suggests that about 30 percent of infected people feel their symptoms improve after the vaccination, while about 15 percent see their symptoms get worse, according to Akiko Iwasaki, professor of immunobiology at Yale University School of Medicine.
“The vaccine generates strong antibodies and memory T-cell immunity against the protrusion protein, so if this changes long-term Covid symptoms, we can get a better idea of ​​how to help people,” Iwasaki explains, adding that her team and others are “working around the clock” to understand Long-term Covid disease.
For Durant and the millions of people around the world suffering from long-term COVID-19 whose symptoms have not gone away, a solution cannot come soon enough.
“There seem to be some breakthroughs, but obviously these things take time,” says Durant.