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As mandatory isolation ends, doctors still don’t have a specific treatment for prolonged COVID


Leading health experts are learning a new kind of bedside manner at new national COVID-19 clinics.

On the one hand, they are de facto counselors for patients who want to rest while exhibiting symptoms common to many other illnesses.

On the other hand, experts like Dr. Anthony Byrne — a senior respiratory physician who co-leads the Long COVID Clinic at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney — are trying to crack the code of treatment for one of the world’s most mysterious new diseases.

“Some of the common symptoms of prolonged COVID are fatigue and poor concentration. Another is memory loss. We know that there [more than] 200 symptoms that explain long-term COVID, so it’s complicated,” says Dr. Byrne.

“The virus doesn’t necessarily spread everywhere in the body, but the effect of the immune system trying to get rid of the virus in the airways and lungs causes this collateral damage.

“One of the things that’s really important for a doctor is to be confident in how you’re handling the disease. But that’s a challenge for a new disease that people don’t have experience with.”

What is prolonged COVID and who is at risk?

Long COVID is gradually becoming better understood.

The most common definition used by the World Health Organization defines it as a post-COVID illness that usually occurs within three months of the onset of illness with symptoms lasting at least two months.

“We know there are risk factors for prolonged COVID. A woman doubles the risk of prolonged COVID. Advanced age is a risk factor,” says Dr. Byrne.

About one in 10 people with acute symptoms of COVID-19 develop long-term COVID-19.(ABC News: Billy Cooper)

“The more symptoms you have when acutely diagnosed with COVID, the higher the risk.

“The magic number is five. So if you have more than five symptoms—fever, runny nose, sore throat, chest pain, shortness of breath, aches and pains—you have more symptoms and a higher risk.”

According to Professor Jason Kovacic, senior cardiologist at St Vincent’s Hospital and chief executive of Sydney’s Victor Chang Center for Cardiac Research, one in 10 people with acute symptoms of COVID-19 are thought to develop long-term COVID-19. institute..

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Audio playback.  Duration: 9 minutes 6 seconds

AUDIO: Continued increase in COVID cases in Australia.

“It is quite possible that the clinics with a long diagnosis of COVID accept the worst patients and exceptions. But I think there is still a significant burden of people with prolonged COVID and serious problems,” says Professor Kovačić.

“It’s not something we can ignore.”

The the latest easing of restrictions this week means Australians have gained freedoms they haven’t had since the start of 2020.

“Certainly, in terms of the number of deaths and admissions to intensive care, the pandemic seems to be moving in a very good direction,” says Professor Kovacic.

“But we’re left with a really significant burden of people with COVID, and we don’t have a specific treatment for them.”

Researchers are beginning to identify biomarkers

The holy grail for researchers is to identify risk factors before the onset of disease.

“What we understand best are biomarkers. If you could just do a blood test and say, ‘Look, you’re at risk of long-term COVID, and so you need to do X, Y, Z to reduce your risk,’ that’s the dream.” ” says Dr. Byrne.

A woman wears a white mask while working at a computer.
A recent Harvard study found that stress is a major risk factor when it comes to developing prolonged COVID.(Powered by Unsplash)

However, existing tests are already producing unexpected results.

“Perhaps we will discover a disease that the patient did not know about. He could have diabetes, asthma or sleep apnea,” says Dr. Byrne.

“We’ve certainly helped a lot of people — close to 300. But there’s another 300 waiting.”

Not all predictors of a long COVID may be destined.

A recent Harvard University study found that stress is also a major risk factor.

“So, in other words, if you’re just unlucky enough to get COVID at a time when you’re stressed, something’s going on, and you’re worried, then that’s a risk factor for long-term COVID,” says Dr. Byrne.

“One of the things we’re seeing is a lot of high achievers: people who are doing 100 things — and then they get COVID and they’re completely decompensated. They can’t do anything. Everything is made worse by the expectation that they should be able to run a marathon and can’t.”

Doctors still do not have answers to all questions

While drugs are out of reach, doctors are aware of patient expectations. But research continues, including by Professor Gail Matthews, Head of Infectious Diseases at St Vincent’s and one of the lead investigators of the pioneering ongoing COVID ADAPT study.


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