Five or more symptoms can lead to long COVID

Birmingham is making breakthroughs towards understanding long COVID, which is believed to have affected 2 million people so far in the UK, with symptoms lasting at least three months.

Having more than five symptoms of COVID-19 in the first week of infection is significantly associated with the development of long COVID, irrespective of age or gender, according to a new University of Birmingham-led review.

The therapies for Long COVID (TLC) Study Group highlights the ten most common symptoms of long COVID. These are fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle pain, cough, headache, joint pain, chest pain, altered smell, diarrhoea and altered taste.

The researchers identified two main symptom clusters of long COVID: those comprised exclusively of fatigue, headache and upper respiratory complaints; and those with multi-system complaints including ongoing fever and gastroenterological symptoms.

Lead author Dr Olalekan Lee Aiyegbusi, Deputy Director at the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Patient Reported Outcomes Research (CPROR), says: 'There is evidence that the impact of acute COVID-19 on patients, regardless of severity, extends beyond hospitalisation in the most severe cases, to ongoing impaired quality of life, mental health and employment issues.

'People living with long COVID generally feel abandoned and dismissed by healthcare providers and receive limited or conflicting advice. More than one-third of the patients in one of the studies included in the review reported they still felt ill or in a worse clinical condition at eight weeks than at the onset of COVID-19.'

Dr Shamil Haroon, Clinical Lecturer in Primary Care and co-Principal Investigator of the University of Birmingham TLC Study, says: 'Neither the biological or immunological mechanisms of long COVID, nor the rationale for why certain people are more susceptible to these effects, are yet clear, limiting development of therapies. It is essential we act quickly to address these issues.'

Find out how you can support research into COVID-19 at the University.

Three areas of COVID-19 research funded by alumni

  • Many alumni, including Adam Jones (BComm, 1990), have funded a new PhD student to support Professor Alex Richter’s work on COVID-19 antibodies and long COVID.
  • A new dentistry PhD studentship is being funded by a dentistry graduate to explore the implications of COVID-19 on the profession.
  • Post-doctoral research fellow Dr Francesca Peruzzo is being funded by Kathleen Chew (LLB, 1981; DUniv, 2019) to investigate how technology is being used to ensure everyone has access to learn remotely during the pandemic, exploring learning processes, and the experiences of learners, parents and teachers across the UK, Italy, the USA, Australia, Malaysia and Chile.

Thank you so much for your support!