A new study has discovered signs of organ damage in young and formerly healthy people who have ongoing symptoms of coronavirus.
The study - which aims to find out more about the condition known as 'long Covid' - has released preliminary data from screenings of 200 people with the ongoing illness, thought to be affecting more than 60,000 people in the UK.
The data shows that almost 70 per cent of those screened have impairments in one organ or more (including the lungs, heart, pancreas and liver) four months after the initial infection.
'Two or more organs affected in 25% of people'
Data comes from Coverscan, which is running a study intending to assess the impact of Covid-19 on organ health in those belonging to 'low risk' categories for the virus. This includes sufferers who are relatively young, without any underlying health issues.
Patients in the study were screened through a combination of physical measurements, MRI scans, online questionnaires and blood tests, with 500 taking part in total.
The most commonly reported symptoms of long Covid are breathlessness, fatigue, brain fog and pain. The study showed that, in some cases, there was a correlation between the site of organ impairment and the symptoms.
Breathlessness, for instance, might be correlated with damage to lungs or the heart, while gastrointestinal symptoms might be associated with the liver or pancreas.
Amitava Banerjee, a cardiologist and associate professor of clinical data science at University College London, said that the "good news" was that impairments observed in patients were generally mild.
However, she added that "even with a conservative lens, there is some impairment, and in 25 per cent 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," she explained.
More research needed
It's important to note, however, that the study doesn't prove the organ impairments are the cause of ongoing symptoms. The data also hasn't yet been peer-reviewed.
Banerjee noted that, given patients weren't screened prior to catching coronavirus, some may have had existing health issues - though this is fairly unlikely, given their relative youth and previous good health. The age of the participants was an average of 44.
The new findings could have some impact on how long Covid is manage in the UK, suggesting that closer collaboration is needed between medical specialists if patients have multiple organ damage.
“Sending the people you need to the cardiologist, and then to the gastroenterologist, and then to the neurologist would be an inefficient way to deal with things as the pandemic continues,” said Banerjee.