Preliminary Research Shows Recovered Coronavirus Patients Still Symptomatic
At least 50% of people tested continue to experience weakness, respiratory issues
Could COVID-19 symptoms stay with patients even after recovering?
That is what researchers at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem are trying to determine and the preliminary results are not encouraging.
At least half of the coronavirus patients who were examined experienced general weakness and respiratory issues weeks and months after officially recovering, meaning that they tested negative twice for the disease. And perhaps the most disturbing finding is that the symptoms continued regardless of the severity of the disease.
“We already examined a few dozens of patients and we saw that the majority of them are still experiencing some discomfort. Most of them are weak. Some of them have shortness of breath. Some of them are still coughing,” Prof. Gabriel Izbicki, director of the Pulmonary Institute at Shaare Zedek, told The Media Line. “The majority didn’t recover and they are not in the same shape as they were before they were infected and hospitalized with COVID-19.”
Izbicki stressed that the study is still in its early stages and that they are recruiting hundreds more recovered patients to determine the long-term effects of the coronavirus.
Calling the preliminary results at three months “very frightening,” Izbicki said that they have to determine if symptoms are still showing at three months for the majority of patients and then continue the research to see if people who officially recovered are back to normal at six months from discharge.
The total number of recoveries in Israel as of Sunday evening Israel time was 17,019 out of 23,616 cases since the outbreak began. Approximately 318 people have died in Israel from the illness.
Prof. Oren Tsimhoni, head of infectious diseases at Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, doesn’t need a study to confirm for him that patients are staying symptomatic after officially recovering from the coronavirus – he is seeing it with his own patients that he is treating.
“Patients with severe corona disease experience prolonged complaints of weakness and it takes a lot of time to resume to baseline and I’m not sure that all of them will resume to baseline, to be honest,” Tsimhoni told The Media Line. “From my personal experience and perspective, this is the impression. That recovery may not be complete for certain patients.”
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and Tsimhoni said that he is not surprised that the disease is potentially causing long-term lung damage, especially when patients arrive late to the hospital when the secondary phase of the disease has already taken hold with severe inflammation.
Medical experts are reportedly concerned that patients who recover from coronavirus could be left with lung scarring, known as pulmonary fibrosis, and the preliminary results of the Shaare Zedek study confirm this. Researchers are seeing not only pulmonary fibrosis, but dyspnea, or difficulty breathing, obstructive pulmonary disease and suspected pulmonary hypertension.
Tsimhoni said that patients who complain about severe weakness are often not aware that the underlying cause is something called “oxygen separation.”
“It’s not a complaint of shortness of breath necessarily but they complain of weakness and then you find out when you test them you look for oxygen separation that they have, they suffer from this separation,” Tsimhoni said.
The preliminary results of the Shaare Zedek study show that some patients hospitalized in severe condition were symptom-free three months post-recovery, while other patients admitted to the hospital with mild or moderate disease were, a few months after recovery, showing symptoms and were suffering.
“There seems to be no correlation between the severity of the disease while being hospitalized and mid-term or long-term effects,” Izbicki said.
Shaare Zedek researchers are calling on former coronavirus patients to contact them to participate in the next phase of the study.
“We are calling to all the patients who were hospitalized either in a hospital or in a hotel with corona to join this research for their benefit of course and for the benefit of the entire medical community and COVID community,” Izbicki said.
If you are a former coronavirus patient in Israel who would like to participate in the study, call +972-2-655-5999 to make an appointment to the Pulmonary Outpatient Clinic at Shaare Zedek Medical Center. There is a special outpatient clinic for the study called the Recovery Corona Outpatient Clinic.