A new study published on the preprint server medRxiv has investigated the prevalence of lingering and extreme tiredness in patients who have recovered from Covid-19. More than half of those studied suffered significant fatigue following their recovery from the illness, irrespective of the severity of their disease. The findings, which have not yet undergone the peer review process, highlight the need for sufficient follow up for recovering patients and further investigation for those suffering from severe post-Covid-19 lethargy to better understand the origins of this developing syndrome.
"Whilst the presenting features of SARS-CoV-2 infection have been well-characterised, the medium and long-term consequences of infection remain unexplored," said Dr Liam Townsend, from St James's Hospital and Trinity Translational Medicine Institute, in a statement.
The study looked at 128 patients monitored by St James’s Hospital in Ireland to ascertain how patients of varying severity of disease coped in the weeks following their recovery from coronavirus. Their results show 52 percent reported persistent fatigue at an assessment 10 weeks after their “clinical recovery” from Covid-19, irrespective of how unwell they were while still infected. It was found that hospitalization during active disease bore no significance on a patient’s risk of developing fatigue, highlighting the threat lingering symptoms pose to patients of all ages and risk status.
The research isn’t alone in tying links between coronavirus and ongoing fatigue symptoms, and there are now bodies of work investigating the effects and incidence of what some have termed “long Covid” to describe the symptoms that remain after the active stage of the disease. Coronavirus is not the first contagious disease to be linked to ongoing and debilitating tiredness, as illnesses including pneumonia and glandular fever are thought to be triggers for a condition called chronic fatigue syndrome, a long-term illness with a wide range of symptoms, the most common of which is extreme tiredness. It’s also known as ME, which stands for myalgic encephalomyelitis, though its legitimacy is sometimes questioned by clinicians.
“Our findings demonstrate a significant burden of post-viral fatigue in individuals with previous SARS-CoV-2 infection after the acute phase of COVID-19 illness,” the study authors wrote. “This study highlights the importance of assessing those recovering from COVID-19 for symptoms of severe fatigue, irrespective of severity of initial illness, and may identify a group worthy of further study and early intervention."
Edited 21/09/2020: This article has been edited to clarify that medRxiv is a prepint server and not a scientific journal.