A study from Oxford University has discovered that COVID-19 could be causing long-term damage to the lungs, even up to three months after a person is no longer directly suffering from the disease.
Ten patients were tested with a new scanning technique that uses xenon gas during an MRI to create more clear images of lung damage. In these scans, lung damage is shown by areas of the lungs where air is not flowing easily to the blood are highlighted.
This study found of the ten patients – who were aged from 19 to 60 – eight of them reported shortness of breath and tiredness even three months after being diagnosed with COVID-19. None of the patients still required any medical care such as ventilation, hospitalisation, or intensive care – none of them had serious cases of the coronavirus either. Conventional scans also showed no signs of damage to the lungs.
The eight who reported shortness of breath, the new method of scans found signs of long-term lung damage.
In light of these results Prof. Fergus Gleeson, the person leading this work, has stated his plans to extend the trial to up to 100 people in order to compare their results – especially if they are reported to not have had a perceived mild case of COVID-19.
These findings help in shedding further light onto what has become known as ‘long COVID’, a phenomenon that has been reported since the start of the pandemic yet little research was able to be carried out on it – until now.
In long COVID, patients are thought to still not be fully recovered from the virus even months after they were cleared of being infected. Due to the nature of this pandemic and virus, new information is constantly coming to light as more research and tests help expand our understanding on how COVID-19 works.
Currently, the exact causes of a long COVID, as well as its potential impacts past the span of a few months, are relatively uncertain.
Yet, Dr Shelley Hayles – a GP based in Oxford who was involved in setting up this trial – stated that she believes up to 10% of people who have COVID-19 may end up with some sort of lung damage and other prolonged symptoms.
“We’re now at more than one and a quarter million who have been infected – and 10% of that is a lot of people,” she said. “When medical staff tell patients that they don’t know what’s wrong with them and they don’t know how to sort the symptoms out, it’s very stressful.”
With the findings of this study, it only further highlights the importance of stopping the spread of the coronavirus as well as doing as much as possible to protect yourself. Even if you get a mild case of COVID-19, you may still be left with long-term damage.
This is something imperative to keep in mind as Malta is on the verge of reaching a total of 10,000 COVID-19 within the next few days.
What do you think about these latest findings?