May 25, 2023

Development of a definition for long COVID

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor's Note

This multi-center study, which is part of the National Institutes of Health’s Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) initiative and led by the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, was conducted to develop a definition of long COVID using self-reported symptoms of 9,764 participants (8,646 infected; 1,118 uninfected) at 85 healthcare facilities in 33 states plus Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico.

A total of 37 symptoms were identified in COVID-19 infected participants at 6 months or more after infection, compared with uninfected participants.

Symptoms contributing to long COVID (as measured with a postacute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 [PASC] composite symptom score) were determined to be postexertional malaise, fatigue, brain fog, dizziness, gastrointestinal symptoms, palpitations, changes in sexual desire or capacity, loss of or change in smell or taste, thirst, chronic cough, chest pain, and abnormal movements.

Among 2,231 participants first infected on or after December 1, 2021, 224 (10%) were positive for long COVID at 6 months.

This symptom-based PASC definition of long COVID represents a first step for identifying long COVID cases and serves as a launching point for further investigations, the authors say.

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