Identifying common baseline clinical features of COVID-19: a scoping review

BMJ Open. 2020 Sep 16;10(9):e041079. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-041079.


Objectives: Our research question was: what are the most frequent baseline clinical characteristics in adult patients with COVID-19? Our major aim was to identify common baseline clinical features that could help recognise adult patients at high risk of having COVID-19.

Design: We conducted a scoping review of all the evidence available at LitCovid, until 23 March 2020.

Setting: Studies conducted in any setting and any country were included.

Participants: Studies had to report the prevalence of sociodemographic characteristics, symptoms and comorbidities specifically in adults with a diagnosis of infection by SARS-CoV-2.

Results: In total, 1572 publications were published on LitCovid. We have included 56 articles in our analysis, with 89% conducted in China and 75% containing inpatients. Three studies were conducted in North America and one in Europe. Participants' age ranged from 28 to 70 years, with balanced gender distribution. The proportion of asymptomatic cases were from 2% to 79%. The most common reported symptoms were fever (4%-99%), cough (4%-92%), dyspnoea/shortness of breath (1%-90%), fatigue (4%-89%), myalgia (3%-65%) and pharyngalgia (2%-61%), while regarding comorbidities, we found cardiovascular disease (1%-40%), hypertension (0%-40%) and cerebrovascular disease (1%-40%). Such heterogeneity impaired the conduction of meta-analysis.

Conclusions: The infection by COVID-19 seems to affect people in a very diverse manner and with different characteristics. With the available data, it is not possible to clearly identify those at higher risk of being infected with this condition. Furthermore, the evidence from countries other than China is, at the moment, too scarce.

Keywords: COVID-19; epidemiology; infectious diseases; statistics & research methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asymptomatic Infections / epidemiology*
  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus Infections / physiopathology*
  • Cough / physiopathology*
  • Dyspnea / physiopathology*
  • Fatigue / physiopathology*
  • Fever / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Myalgia / physiopathology
  • Pandemics
  • Pharyngitis / physiopathology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / physiopathology*
  • SARS-CoV-2