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Long-term effects of COVID-19 are dangerous and varied

A medical worker inoculates a man with a dose of the Covaxin Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at an indoor stadium in Guwahati
A medical worker inoculates a man with a dose of the Covaxin Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at an indoor stadium in Guwahati

Scientists from Washington University School of Medicine have found that COVID-19 survivors tend to have an elevated risk of death in the period covering the first six months following a diagnosis with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This is due to the numerous diseases associated with the COVID-19 diseases. Some of these become long-term complications.

Complications identified include

Respiratory system: persistent cough, shortness of breath and low oxygen levels in the blood.
Nervous system: stroke, headaches, memory problems and problems with senses of taste and smell.
Mental health: anxiety, depression, sleep problems and substance abuse.
Metabolism: new onset of diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol.
Cardiovascular system: acute coronary disease, heart failure, heart palpitations and irregular heart rhythms.
Gastrointestinal system: constipation, diarrhea and acid reflux.
Kidney: acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease that can, in severe cases, require dialysis.
Coagulation regulation: blood clots in the legs and lungs.
Skin: rash and hair loss.
Musculoskeletal system: joint pain and muscle weakness.
General health: malaise, fatigue and anemia.

While some of the long-term effects get better over time, such as shortness of breath and cough, there are other problems that may get worse or at least stay with the individual for a long time period after initial recovery.

Such research is of great concern because it signals the heavy burden this disease, which is likely affect the world’s population across many subsequent years.

The findings have been reported to the journal Nature, in a paper titled “High-dimensional characterization of post-acute sequalae of COVID-19.”

Immune response

In related news, virologists working at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute have located a set of human genes that can fight a SARS-CoV-2 infection. This insight into the genes help control a coronavirus infection should assist with the scientific understanding of key factors that influence disease severity. Furthermore, the research could help with the identification of possible therapeutic options.

The specific genes are related to interferons (a group of signaling proteins made and released by host cells in response to the presence of several viruses). These proteins help to block viral replication and this indicates that a vulnerable site on the outer layer of the virus could be exploited to help the body to clear a viral infection.

The research appears in the journal Molecular Cell, in a paper headed “Functional Landscape of SARS-CoV-2 Cellular Restriction.”

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