Lung Damage In COVID-19 Recovered Patients
According to a media report on Monday, 90% of the coronavirus recovered patients from a prominent hospital in China’s Wuhan city have reported lung damage, and 5% have tested positive again for the novel coronavirus.
Since April, a follow-up study was being conducted in 100 recovered patients by a team at the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University led by Peng Zhiyong, director of the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.
The first phase of this one year study finished in July patients of an average age 59. According to the results from the first phase of the study, the lungs are still in the damaged state in 90% of patients meaning the gas exchange and ventilation functions of their lungs have not recovered to a healthy level.
A six-minute walking test was conducted with the patients by Peng’s team. The recovered patients were able to walk only 400 meters in six minutes, while those of their age who didn’t have COVID-19 were able to walk 500 meters in the same period.
Liang Tengxiao, a doctor from the Dongzhimen Hospital, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, said some had to depend on oxygen machines even three months after being discharged from the hospital. Follow up visits on patients aged over 65 are also being conducted by Liang’s team. The results also showed that 10% of the COVID-19 recovered patients did not have antibodies against the coronavirus in them.
5% of them were still positive in Immunoglobulin M (IgM) tests and negative in COVID-19 nucleic acid tests. However, they were quarantined again. When a virus attacks, IgM is usually the first antibody produced by the immune system. A positive result in the IgM test means the person has just been infected by the virus. But it’s not clear yet if that means they are infected again.
The 100 patients still had a low level of B cells, suggesting their immune systems have not fully recovered. However, they had high levels of T cells that detect viral antigens outside infected cells. This shows that the immune system of patients is still in a state of recovery. Besides physical health issues, they also suffered from a sense of stigma and depression, as the family members of most recovered patients were not having dinner with them at the same table. And only a few have returned to work. These findings that report lung damage in COVID-19 recovered patients are important because Wuhan is the place where COVID-19 first emerged.
Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, has reported a total of 68,138 confirmed COVID-19 cases till now, which killed 4,512 people in the province.