After COVID-19, young people have increased cholesterol, high body mass index, and less physical stamina for a time, research finds.
As a result, they may be more likely to develop metabolic disorders and cardiovascular complications in the long term.
The intermediate-term and long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 infections on young adults have scarcely been investigated. Available original research tends to focus on sufferers who were hospitalized, elderly, or who have multiple morbidities. Or, existing research restricts evaluations to a single organ system.
The new study, conducted under the leadership of Patricia Schlagenhauf, professor at the Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute of the University of Zurich, appears in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases. The work took place between May and November 2021 with 29 female and 464 male participants with a median age of 21.
Of the participants, 177 had confirmed COVID-19 more than 180 days prior to the testing day, and the control group was made up of 251 SARS-CoV-2 serologically negative individuals. Unlike other studies the novel test battery also evaluated cardiovascular, pulmonary, neurological, ophthalmological, male fertility, and psychological and general systems.
The findings show that young, previously healthy, non-hospitalized individuals largely recover from mild infection and that the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on several systems of the body is less than that seen in older, multi-morbid, or hospitalized patients.
However, the study also provided evidence that recent infections—even mild ones—can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, reduced sense of smell, and psychological problems for up to 180 days, as well as having a short-term negative impact on male fertility. For non-recent infections—more than 180 days back—these effects were no longer significant.
For those with non-recent infections, however, the study–which had a long follow-up–provided evidence of a potentially risky constellation: “Increased BMI, high cholesterol, and lower physical stamina is suggestive of a higher risk of developing metabolic disorders and possible cardiovascular complications,” says Schlagenhauf.
“These results have societal and public-health effects and can be used to guide strategies for broad interdisciplinary evaluation of COVID-19 sequelae, their management, curative treatments, and provision of support in young adult populations.”
The study, conducted in collaboration with clinics at the University Hospital Zurich and Spiez Laboratory, is novel in that it quantitatively evaluated multi-organ function using a sensitive, minimally invasive battery of tests in a homogenous group of people several months after a COVID-19 infection. A valuable facet of the study was the control group, serologically confirmed to have had no SARS-CoV-2 exposure.
The Swiss Armed Forces funded the work.
Source: University of Zurich