Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights a significant increase in new COVID-19 cases, particularly from the JN.1 variant. This variant makes up 30-50 percent of the current variants monitored in the U.S. and has surged more ambitiously than others. With COVID-19 continuing to imprint a global impact, the existence and consequences of ‘Long COVID’ have become increasingly critical. Recent studies propose a gross underestimation of Long COVID cases, contributing to an urgent need to understand and manage the associated risks.
Initially, it was hypothesized that SARS-CoV-2 triggered an auto-immune response, potentially inducing long-term inflammatory reactions throughout the body. This has been substantiated by contemporary research, which suggests that certain pre-existing conditions amplify the chances of developing Long COVID. For instance, a recent study in the Systemic Review’s November issue proposed that individuals with allergic conditions such as asthma or rhinitis are more susceptible to Long COVID. Several other research pieces have uniquely connected inflammation levels and the propensity to develop Long COVID.
Diseases such as anxiety, depression, arthritis, and autoimmune disorders significantly augment the risk. In identifying high-risk groups, gender has also emerged as a critical element. Women, particularly perimenopausal and menopausal ones, are more likely to develop Long COVID. In a Chinese study, it was observed that women under 50 were five times more prone to develop Long COVID post-discharge than male patients.
An additional UK-based study underlined that while female patients showed lower levels of inflammation during hospital admission, they were more likely to experience Long COVID symptoms such as muscle ache and anxiety, compared to male patients.
Obesity has also been highlighted as a risk factor for Long COVID by a recent study from the University of Queensland in Australia. The study found an association between a high Body Mass Index (BMI) and an impaired immune response to a SARS-CoV-2 infection. Comprehensively, these findings cement the complex interplay of various conditions in elevating the risk of Long COVID and demonstrate a pressing need to adapt healthcare strategies to manage this growing concern.