LONG Covid is the term used to explain the long-term effects of Covid-19 that are being discovered as people recover from the initial impact of the virus.

According to a review by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), it may actually be a number of different syndromes and researchers are now examining what exactly happens after someone has contracted coronavirus.

In the NIHR review, it was suggested that people suffering from long-term effects of Covid-19 may have different syndromes such as post-intensive care syndrome, post-viral fatigue syndrome, and long term covid syndrome.

Why is Long Covid significant?

Researchers looking at coronavirus treatments for the over-50s are now considering including younger people in trials as issues around Long Covid become clearer.

Principle is a nationwide clinical trial from the University of Oxford that is looking for medicines that can help people get better quickly and stop them needing to go to hospital.

As longer-term effects become clearer, it has emerged to the Principle team that it would be unlikely that a "perfect vaccine" would work for everyone, so there still needs to be treatments available for people who get the disease.

How long does Covid-19 usually last?

Figures from the UK Covid Symptom Study app - which has more than four million regular users - suggest that a significant number of people report having symptoms for a month and between 10% and 20% have reported further complications.

While studies are still ongoing, the assumption that people tend to recover from "mild" infections within two weeks and more "serious" ones within three weeks have been challenged recently.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance, people are still able to infect others after symptoms disappear so care should be taken for at least two weeks after people get better.

The continued research into Long Covid is important as establishing clear symptoms will enable healthcare professionals to provide ongoing support to people that have contracted Covid-19.

What are the recurring symptoms that characterise Long Covid?

Regardless of whether someone has been hospitalised with Covid-19 or not, there is a wide range of symptoms experienced by patients.

These include effects on:

  • Respiratory systems
  • The brain
  • Cardiovascular system
  • The heart
  • Kidneys
  • Gut 
  • Liver
  • Skin

Symptoms are likely to range in intensity and duration and do not necessarily present in any particular order.

The authors of the NIHR review said that the lack of a definition for what people are experiencing with may impact their ability to have their “symptoms and experiences properly recognised and treated by healthcare services, which can, in turn, have a further psychological impact, especially for non-hospitalised patients who were never formally diagnosed.”

What possible treatments are there?

In the Principle trial, researchers are looking at two common antibiotics, azithromycin and doxycycline.

Azithromycin has been shown to interfere with the ability of Sars-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19), to bind to human cells, as well as interfering with its ability to replicate and spread in the body.

Computer modelling studies have suggested that doxycycline can work against the virus. It is a commonly available antibiotic and usually used to treat infections caused by bacteria and certain parasites.