Although most people who undergo SARS-CoV-2 infection recover, a significant proportion suffer long-term symptoms and late sequelae, also known as long COVID. We investigated long COVID symptoms in 233 people with a mild to moderate course of acute COVID-19.
Our study showed that 46% of COVID-19 infected participants had one or more long COVID symptoms 12 months after infection. The most reported symptoms were fatigue (37%), memory problems (26%) and concentration problems (24%). Worryingly, these symptoms were highly prevalent in young adults, and significantly more common in the infected individuals compared to uninfected age-matched controls.
In the 149 participants who were followed for up to 18 months after infection, the proportion who reported memory problems increased significantly over time, whereas other symptoms did not change significantly from 6 to 18 months.
The SARS-CoV-2 spike protein plays a critical role for the virus to enter host cells and thus initiate infection. We found that specific immune responses towards the spike protein were significantly linked with shortness of breath and the number of symptoms reported 12 months after acute COVID-19.
Our findings demonstrate that even mild COVID-19 disease can lead to long-lasting symptom. Furthermore, our investigations of immune responses suggest a relationship between SARS-CoV-2 specific immune responses and the development of long COVID.
See the publication “Symptom burden and immune dynamics 6 to 18 months following mild SARS-CoV-2 infection -a case-control study” here.