Long Covid


Roundup: Millions Still Grapple with Long COVID’s Fatigue and Loss of Smell/Taste; Link Between ‘Forever Chemicals’ and Child Obesity

Millions Still Have Not Fully Recovered Smell or Taste Senses After COVID infection, Research Finds

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, many patients experienced some or a complete loss of taste and smell during initial infections -- and an estimated quarter of them have yet to fully recover their sense of taste or smell, according to a retrospective study by researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, part of the Mass General Brigham healthcare system.

That amounts to millions of U.S. adults who have yet to fully recover those senses. The study's authors emphasize that since smell and taste often work together, it may be difficult for patients to self-report which senses have or have not recovered. "However, there remains a large population of patients who experience loss of smell and taste as an after-effect of COVID," state researchers in a statement.

The study found that around 72 percent of patients fully recovered their sense of smell, but 24 percent only had a partial recovery and more than 3 percent had no recovery of their sense of smell at all.  Of those who suffered a loss of taste from COVID, about 76 percent fully recovered the sense, while 20 percent only partially recovered, and more than 2 percent did not recover at all. "That amounted to almost 28 million Americans potentially left with a decreased sense of smell after COVID infection," state researchers.

The new study's results, published in The Laryngoscope, are based on data from the 2021 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), a branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which includes surveys taken from 29,696 adults. In the NHIS data, COVID patients were asked about the severity of their initial COVID symptoms, any loss of taste or smell, and their recovery of those senses..

“The value of this study is that we are highlighting a group of people who have been a bit neglected,” said Neil Bhattacharyya, MD, FACS, professor of otolaryngology at Mass Eye and Ear, and one of the study’s authors, in a statement. “Losing your sense of smell or taste isn’t as benign as you may think. It can lead to decreased eating for pleasure and, in more extreme cases, it can lead to depression and weight loss.”

Dr. Bhattacharyya states that a motivation for the study was a patient he saw who lost 50 pounds due to his COVID-related smell loss.

“The patient wasn't eating and became very sick and very depressed because of the loss of smell,” Dr Bhattacharyya said. “When you hear about COVID-related smell loss, you think most people get it back and are fine. But there is a substantial number of people who don’t recover it.”

Researchers: Long COVID Fatigue can Affect Quality of Life Worse Than Some Cancers

Researchers have found that many patients with long COVID -- or lingering symptoms that can last for months or years -- had fatigue scores, on average, that were worse or similar to people with cancer-related anemia or severe kidney disease.

Fatigue is the symptom that most significantly effects the daily lives of long COVID patients, and can affect quality of life more than some cancers, conclude authors of a new study led by researchers at University College London and the University of Exeter.

Their findings, published in BMJ Open and funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), examines the impact of long COVID on more than 3,750 patients who were referred to a clinic and used a digital app as part of their National Health Service  treatment for long COVID in the U.K.

"The researchers found that many long COVID patients were seriously ill and, on average, had fatigue scores worse or similar to people with cancer-related anemia or severe kidney disease. Their health-related quality of life scores were also lower than those of people with advanced metastatic cancers, like stage IV lung cancer," states a news release on the study.

Anemia results from a lack of red blood cells or dysfunctional red blood cells in the body. Moreover, the researchers found that the impact of long COVID on the daily activities of patients "was worse than that of stroke patients and was comparable to that of patients with Parkinson’s disease."

Dr. Henry Goodfellow, who co-led the study alongside the late Professor Elizabeth Murray (both UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health), said in a statement: “Up to around 17 percent of people who get COVID go on to develop long COVID. However, the impact of the condition on patients’ day-to-day lives isn’t fully understood.  Our results have found that long COVID can have a devastating effect on the lives of patients – with fatigue having the biggest impact on everything from social activities to work, chores and maintaining close relationships.”

Exposure to ‘Forever Chemicals’ During Pregnancy Linked to Higher Risk of Obesity in Children

Exposure to so-called "forever chemicals" during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of obesity in children, according to a new, federally funded study by Brown University researchers.

This link has been indicated in previous studies, but data has been inconclusive. The new study, which was funded by the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes program at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), "involves a much broader data set with research sites across the country," said lead author Yun “Jamie” Liu, a postdoctoral research associate in epidemiology at the Brown University School of Public Health, in a statement.

“The findings were based on eight research cohorts located in different parts of the U.S. as well as with different demographics,”  Liu said. “This makes our study findings more generalizable to the population as a whole.”

PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances), more commonly known as “forever chemicals,” represent a class of thousands of man-made chemicals that have been around since the 1940s. And as the nickname suggests, they are present for a long time because they don’t break down, and that can lead to widespread contamination. PFAS are used to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. These coatings can be in a range of products, including clothing, furniture, adhesives, food packaging, heat-resistant non-stick cooking surfaces, and the insulation of electrical wire, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Brown University researchers found that higher levels of PFAS in the mothers’ blood during pregnancy were related to slightly higher BMIs or a slightly higher risk of obesity in their children. Increased risk of obesity was seen equally for male and female children.

“There is a continued interest in understanding the effects of low-level PFAS exposure on children’s health,” said senior author Joseph Braun, a professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Children's Environmental Health at Brown’s School of Public Health, in a statement. “Studies like this one can help researchers and policymakers better understand the risks of PFAS in order to take effective actions to protect vulnerable populations.”

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