More than half of patients with acute coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection continue to have persistent fatigue 10 weeks after illness onset, according to research published in PLOS ONE.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused over 1.27 million deaths and there have been more than 51.25 million confirmed cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Fatigue is one of the most common initial complaints of people with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. The long-term effects and consequences of the virus have yet to be studied fully and concerns have been raised that COVID-19 triggers post-viral fatigue syndrome, according to the study. 

The study included 128 patients who had previously been diagnosed with COVID-19, of whom 54% were female and had an average age of 49.5 years. More than half of the participants, 55.5%, had been admitted to the hospital, whereas the remainder were treated outpatient. The average assessment took place 72 days after hospital discharge or, if they were treated as an outpatient, 14 days following diagnosis. 

According to the study, more than half of patients met the criteria for fatigue at least 6 weeks following infection. Only 54 patients (42.2%) reported feeling back to their full health. Investigators found no association between disease severity, need for hospital admission, or routine laboratory markers for inflammation with the likelihood of experiencing persistent fatigue after infection.  

"This study highlights the burden of post-COVID fatigue. It also demonstrates that post-COVID fatigue is unrelated to severity of initial infection, so predicting its development is not easy," the study authors said. 

Limitations of the study included the population cohort being predominantly white and Irish. Additionally, participants were only assessed at a single time-point with no follow-ups. 

REFERENCE:
Study finds lasting fatigue common after COVID-19 infection [News Release] November 12, 2020; Dublin, Ireland. Accessed November 12, 2020. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-11/p-sfl111020.php