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Published in: European Journal of Epidemiology 2/2023

Open Access 21-01-2023 | Long-COVID Syndrome | COVID-19

Characterising patterns of COVID-19 and long COVID symptoms: evidence from nine UK longitudinal studies

Authors: Ruth C. E. Bowyer, Charlotte Huggins, Renin Toms, Richard J. Shaw, Bo Hou, Ellen J. Thompson, Alex S. F. Kwong, Dylan M. Williams, Milla Kibble, George B. Ploubidis, Nicholas J. Timpson, Jonathan A. C. Sterne, Nishi Chaturvedi, Claire J. Steves, Kate Tilling, Richard J. Silverwood, the CONVALESCENCE Study

Published in: European Journal of Epidemiology | Issue 2/2023

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Abstract

Multiple studies across global populations have established the primary symptoms characterising Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and long COVID. However, as symptoms may also occur in the absence of COVID-19, a lack of appropriate controls has often meant that specificity of symptoms to acute COVID-19 or long COVID, and the extent and length of time for which they are elevated after COVID-19, could not be examined. We analysed individual symptom prevalences and characterised patterns of COVID-19 and long COVID symptoms across nine UK longitudinal studies, totalling over 42,000 participants. Conducting latent class analyses separately in three groups (‘no COVID-19’, ‘COVID-19 in last 12 weeks’, ‘COVID-19 > 12 weeks ago’), the data did not support the presence of more than two distinct symptom patterns, representing high and low symptom burden, in each group. Comparing the high symptom burden classes between the ‘COVID-19 in last 12 weeks’ and ‘no COVID-19’ groups we identified symptoms characteristic of acute COVID-19, including loss of taste and smell, fatigue, cough, shortness of breath and muscle pains or aches. Comparing the high symptom burden classes between the ‘COVID-19 > 12 weeks ago’ and ‘no COVID-19’ groups we identified symptoms characteristic of long COVID, including fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle pain or aches, difficulty concentrating and chest tightness. The identified symptom patterns among individuals with COVID-19 > 12 weeks ago were strongly associated with self-reported length of time unable to function as normal due to COVID-19 symptoms, suggesting that the symptom pattern identified corresponds to long COVID. Building the evidence base regarding typical long COVID symptoms will improve diagnosis of this condition and the ability to elicit underlying biological mechanisms, leading to better patient access to treatment and services.
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Footnotes
1
We included both the ALSPAC cohort (ALSPAC-G1; born 1991–92, age 27–29) and their parents (ALSPAC-G0, age 45–81) as a pooled sample.
 
2
We do not present COVID-19 prevalence calculated using these values due to the inclusion of studies which only contributed data for individuals who reported prior COVID-19 (USoc, GS).
 
3
Analyses were not possible for either group with COVID-19 in BiB due to insufficient sample size.
 
4
With the exception of GS and USoc which lack a no COVID-19 group to act as a comparator.
 
5
Analyses were again not possible for either group with COVID-19 in BiB due to insufficient sample size.
 
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Metadata
Title
Characterising patterns of COVID-19 and long COVID symptoms: evidence from nine UK longitudinal studies
Authors
Ruth C. E. Bowyer
Charlotte Huggins
Renin Toms
Richard J. Shaw
Bo Hou
Ellen J. Thompson
Alex S. F. Kwong
Dylan M. Williams
Milla Kibble
George B. Ploubidis
Nicholas J. Timpson
Jonathan A. C. Sterne
Nishi Chaturvedi
Claire J. Steves
Kate Tilling
Richard J. Silverwood
the CONVALESCENCE Study
Publication date
21-01-2023
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Published in
European Journal of Epidemiology / Issue 2/2023
Print ISSN: 0393-2990
Electronic ISSN: 1573-7284
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10654-022-00962-6

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