The battle of ideas around Covid has few clashes as hotly contested as Long Covid. Alarmists have hyped the frequency and severity with which infection causes long-term damage. Sceptics see no reason for panic. A new study helps to settle at least part of this debate.
The paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s (JAMA) Network Open looked at “post–COVID-19 condition (PCC) in young people after mild acute infection” to find how common it was and to find risk factors. Participants were aged between 12 and 25.
The authors offer this straightforward conclusion: “PCC was not associated with biological markers specific to viral infection.” That is, participants were equally likely to suffer from ‘Long Covid’, whether or not they had suffered from acute COVID-19.
The researchers concluded that Long Covid is predicted by “initial symptom severity” and, intriguingly, “psychosocial factors”.
The full article is available on JAMA Network Open.
The main results from the present study were: (1) the prevalence of PCC six months after acute COVID-19 was approximately 50%, but was equally high in a control group of comparable SARS-CoV-2-negative individuals; (2) acute COVID-19 was not an independent risk factor for PCC; (3) the severity of clinical symptoms at baseline, irrespective of SARS-CoV-2 status, was the main risk factor of persistent symptoms six months later.
Symptom prevalence data are consistent with other controlled studies of young people after acute COVID-19 reporting a high symptom load, with only subtle differences between individuals testing positive and negative for SARS-CoV-2. Correspondingly, a large population-based study found no associations between most persistent symptoms attributed to COVID-19 and serological evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection. …
These findings suggest that persistent symptoms in this age group are related to factors other than SARS-CoV-2 infection, and therefore question the usefulness of the WHO case definition of PCC.