Most people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus recover within 12 months, irrespective of the severity, according to a study.
Although 75 per cent people in the study recovered at the 12-month mark after becoming ill with the virus, 25 per cent of patients still had at least one of the three most common symptoms, including coughing, fatigue and breathlessness, the resaerchers said.
Long-COVID conditions can include a wide range of ongoing health problems that can last weeks, months, or longer.
The team led by researchers at the McMaster University in Canada also found that patients with persistent symptoms had antibodies associated with autoimmune illnesses, as well as raised levels of cytokines, which cause inflammation.
The study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, surveyed 106 people recovering from COVID-19 infections at three, six and 12 months after contracting the disease.
"Generally, one should not worry if they are feeling unwell right after their infection, as the chances of recovering within 12 months is very high, and just because you have typical long COVID symptoms at three months does not mean they will stay forever," said Manali Mukherjee, senior author of the study.
"However, the study highlights that at 12 months, if you still feel unwell and the symptoms are persisting or worsening, you should definitely seek medical attention," Mukherjee said.
In patients who recovered, a reduction in autoantibodies and cytokines was matched by their symptoms improving, the researchers said.
Those who had elevated antibody and cytokine levels after one year were those whose symptoms persisted, they said.
"Sometimes, while the body is fighting the virus, the immune system gets so amped up that, in addition to making antibodies that kill the virus, it can produce those that attack the host," said Mukherjee.
"However, the general tendency of the body after it fights a severe virus like SARS-COV2, is to recover, and its often paced out varying from individual to individual," the scientist added.
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