Long-COVID patients show reduced physical performance

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Some people who have contracted COVID-19, which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, continue to experience symptoms long after their initial recovery.

This is often referred to as “Long-COVID”.

A symptom of Long-COVID is reduced mobility. However, experts are trying to understand why this happens to some people and not others.

New study on Long COVID

A recent UC San Francisco study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases shed some light on this. Researchers found that many people with long COVID weren’t able to exercise as much as expected.

The main reason for this was chronotropic incompetence, which means that the heart rate does not increase sufficiently during exercise.

The researchers also found that people with reduced physical capacity had higher levels of inflammatory markers early in their recovery from COVID-19.

They also found a possible link between decreased heart rate during exercise and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) reactivation.

How the study was conducted

Matthew Durstenfeld, MD, MAS, led the study as part of a larger project called the Long-Term Impact of Infection with Novel Coronavirus (LIINC) study.

This project examines the long-term effects of COVID-19 on physical and mental health.

Researchers first used echocardiograms, which are tests that show images of the heart, to find out why some COVID-19 patients had long-term symptoms.

When that didn’t provide the answers they were looking for, they added more tests.

These included testing lung and heart function during exercise, cardiac imaging tests, and monitoring heart rhythms over time. They also took blood samples from the study participants.

Results of the study

60 people took part in the study. They were tested about a year and a half after they contracted COVID-19.

Almost half of those with long-lasting COVID symptoms had limited exercise capacity, compared to 16% of those without symptoms.

The participants with symptoms had a lower peak VO2, which is a measure of how much oxygen the body is using during exercise.

Also, they often exhibited chronotropic incompetence, and their inflammatory markers and antibody levels in the months following COVID-19 were associated with lower peak VO2 levels over a year later.

“Our results suggest that chronotropic incompetence is one reason people with long COVID are unable to exercise as much,” Durstenfeld said.

“We also found evidence of EBV reactivation in all subjects with chronotropic incompetence. However, we found no evidence of cardiac inflammation, cardiac dysfunction, or a serious cardiac arrhythmia.”

Go forward

The results of this study highlight the challenges physicians face when patients with long-lasting COVID symptoms do not show clear signs of heart problems.

Researchers are calling for more research to better understand the different forms and causes of long-COVID symptoms. This could help identify possible treatments.

Until new treatment options become available, physical exercise could help people with limited physical capacity to relieve their symptoms.

It’s important to consider safety, however, as some people worry that exercise might make their symptoms worse.

“Although exercise is unlikely to cure a long-standing COVID infection, preliminary data suggest it may improve exercise capacity, symptoms and quality of life,” Durstenfeld said.

“But we need more research to fully understand the role of exercise in long-COVID.”

If you are interested in COVID, please read Studies on new findings on rare blood clots after COVID-19 vaccination and how diets could help manage post-COVID syndrome.

For more information on COVID, see the latest studies on eye disease associated with severe COVID-19 in the elderly and related outcomes Zinc could help reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection.

The study was published in TThe Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Copyright © 2023 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.

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