New study examines the relationship between Long COVID symptoms and specific variants

Researchers are learning more about who gets long COVID and why.

A new CDC funded study released this week, researchers examined the relationship between long COVID and variants.

This research is part of INSPIRE, a national study across eight major healthcare systems intentionally selected for diversity of geography and participant populations.

Researchers say they examined more than 3,200 people who were symptomatic over the course of 18 months. They said the study primarily focused on fatigue because experts believe this long COVID symptom can have a direct impact on your quality-of-life and daily activities.

The data showed if you were infected with the virus during the pre-Delta variant phrase, then you were more likely to experience long COVID symptoms.

“One in eight patients infected with COVID had severe prolonged fatigue at three months…that is a life impacting affect,” said Dr. Michael Gottlieb, Co-Principal Investigator, INSPIRE site at Rush University Medical Center.

The study shows people who were infected with the Delta or Omicron variants were less likely to experience those long-term effects. Experts say these results also highlight the effectiveness of vaccines.

“Those who had received vaccination had lower rates of long COVID across those time periods and not just in terms of the presence of fatigue but just multiple symptoms,” said Gottlieb.

Doctors say long COVID symptoms can also change over time. They say some patients initially experienced severe symptoms at three months and then found relief a few months later. In some cases, the symptoms started out mild and then become more severe over time.

“I think that’s really important for us to understand what’s the actual trajectory how does it change over time because of the number of people affected,” Gottlieb. “How long will this impact it? Will they be impacted 3,6,9,12 all the way up to 18 months?”

This work also focused on the patient experience. According to the study, researchers collected data “directly using participants self-report at baseline and three months rather than relying on provider-documented symptoms.”

Doctors say this research isn’t over. They’re now studying the risk of developing long COVID after multiple infections.

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