Many people who were infected with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus have continued to experience symptoms months after overcoming the initial infection, a condition known as long COVID. Now, a group of scientists has discovered that COVID-19 is not the only infectious disease that affects the respiratory system that can have a long-term effect on health.
Researchers at Queen Mary University of London (United Kingdom) have carried out a study that shows that some people who have suffered acute respiratory infections and tested negative for COVID-19 can also manifest long-term symptoms or “long colds”.
The work has been published in EClinicalMedicine and has found that some of the most common symptoms of a “long cold” are cough, stomach pain and diarrhea more than four weeks after initial infection. The risk of long-term symptoms is usually determined in part by the severity of the disease, but new studies are being done to find out why this happens to some people and not others.
Long-term symptoms of cold, flu or pneumonia
The findings suggest that there may be persistent negative health effects after suffering from non-COVID acute respiratory infections, such as colds, flu or pneumonia, which are currently not recognized. However, researchers have found no evidence to suggest that symptoms are of the same severity or duration as long COVID.
“Our findings may align with the experience of people who have struggled with prolonged symptoms after having a respiratory infection despite testing negative for COVID-19.”
Barts Charity funded this research which compared the prevalence and severity of long-term symptoms following an episode of COVID-19 with an episode of another acute respiratory infection that tested negative for COVID-19. People recovering from COVID-19 were more likely to experience brain fog or dizziness and alterations in taste and smell compared to those who had a respiratory infection unrelated to COVID-19.
The study is part of COVIDENCE UK, Queen Mary University of London’s national COVID-19 study, which began in 2020 and is still ongoing, with more than 19,000 participants enrolled. This study analyzed data from 10,171 UK adults, who responded to questionnaires, and performed statistical analyzes to identify clusters of symptoms.
“Our findings shed light not only on the impact of long COVID on people’s lives, but also on other respiratory infections. Lack of awareness, or even the lack of a common term, prevents both the reporting and diagnosis of these conditions,” said Giulia Vivaldi, COVIDENCE UK researcher at Queen Mary University of London and lead author of the study.
“As research into long COVID continues, we must take the opportunity to investigate and consider the lasting effects of other acute respiratory infections.” “These ‘long-term’ infections are very difficult to diagnose and treat mainly due to the lack of diagnostic tests and the large number of possible symptoms. “Over 200 COVID cases have been investigated for a long time alone.”
The teacher Adrian Martineauchief investigator at COVIDENCE UK and clinical professor of respiratory infection and immunity at Queen Mary University of London, said: “Our findings may resonate with the experience of people who have struggled with long-term symptoms after having had a respiratory infection despite that the tests came back negative for COVID-19 in a nose or throat swab.”
“Ongoing research into the long-term effects of COVID-19 and other acute respiratory infections is important because it can help us get to the root of why some people experience longer symptoms than others. Ultimately, this could help us identify the most appropriate form of treatment and care for the affected people,” concludes the expert.