More than half of COVID-19 cases continue to suffer from COVID-19 symptoms six months on from their infection, according to a new study.
Scientists at Murdoch University in Perth found that these symptoms, known as 'Long COVID', linger in 57 percent of COVID-19 patients.
The symptoms include chronic fatigue, muscle and joint pain and loss of sense of smell.
Researchers investigated the blood chemistry of people who suffered COVID-19 three months prior. They found "persistent systematic changes" that related to the ongoing COVID-19 symptoms.
The study into post-acute COVID-19 syndrome shows that more than half of non-hospitalised COVID-19 patients had between one and nine persistent symptoms.
"As patients who suffered from less severe manifestations of COVID-19 constitute the largest proportion of the post-COVID-19 population, now over 160 million cases worldwide, we are undertaking follow up studies to assess recovery and what we've found is cause for concern," explained director professor Jeremy Nicholson.
"What we discovered is a majority of non-hospitalised COVID-19 patients are not back to normal health or normal biochemistry three months on, with one or more symptoms persisting in 57 percent of those patients up to six months following the acute phase."
Nicholson says Long Covid is a "major public health concern" as many patients also have metabolic abnormalities which may change their risk for other diseases.
"There are now over 140 million so-called 'recovered' people around the world, so it is possible that long-term effects will be seen in tens of millions of people with significantly increased healthcare economic burdens as well as the individual medical problems."
He added that it remained unclear as to whether Long COVID is an extension of the COVID-19 disease trajectory or the beginning of an additional, separate chronic disease.
The study was also able to develop a framework for identifying Long COVID symptoms which Nicholson says is "critical" to developing personalised treatment plans for those suffering.