Article Image
IPFS News Link • Pandemic

Life-threatening inflammation is turning COVID-19 into a chronic disease

• https://www.studyfinds.org, by Chris Melore

Now, a new study contends that the life-threatening inflammation many patients experience — causing long-term damage to their health — is turning COVID-19 into a chronic condition.

"When someone has a cold or even pneumonia, we usually think of the illness being over once the patient recovers. This is different from a chronic disease, like congestive heart failure or diabetes, which continue to affect patients after an acute episode. We may similarly need to start thinking of COVID-19 as having ongoing effects in many parts of the body after patients have recovered from the initial episode," says first author Professor Arch G. Mainous III, vice chair for research in the Department of Community Health and Family Medicine at the University of Florida Gainesville, in a media release.

"Once we recognize the importance of 'long COVID' after seeming 'recovery', we need to focus on treatments to prevent later problems, such as strokes, brain dysfunction, and especially premature death."

The study finds COVID patients experiencing severe inflammation while in the hospital saw their risk of death skyrocket by 61 percent over the next year post-recovery.

Inflammation raising the risk of death after an illness is a seemingly confusing concept. Typically, inflammation is a natural part of the body's immune response and healing process. However, some illnesses including COVID-19 cause this infection-fighting response to overshoot. Previous studies call this the "cytokine storm," an event where the immune system starts attacking healthy tissue.

"COVID-19 is known to create inflammation, particularly during the first, acute episode. Our study is the first to examine the relationship between inflammation during hospitalization for COVID-19 and mortality after the patient has 'recovered'," Prof. Mainous says.

"Here we show that the stronger the inflammation during the initial hospitalization, the greater the probability that the patient will die within 12 months after seemingly 'recovering' from COVID-19."