The occurrence of long COVID: a rapid review

Pan Afr Med J. 2021 Jan 20;38:65. doi: 10.11604/pamj.2021.38.65.27366. eCollection 2021.

Abstract

The long-term effects of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) are not well understood. This rapid review was aimed at synthesizing evidence on the long-term effects of the SARS-CoV-2 infection among survivors. We considered both randomised controlled trials and non-randomised studies eligible for inclusion in this review. The following databases were searched: PubMed, Scopus, Cochrane library, Google Scholar, and the World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 database. The reference lists of all the included studies were also searched. Two authors independently screened the search outputs and reviewed full texts of potentially eligible articles. Data extraction was done by one author and checked by a second author. A meta-analysis was not conducted due to heterogeneity among the included studies. Results are presented narratively. Eleven studies met our inclusion criteria. All these studies were conducted in high-income countries. Study findings demonstrate that COVID-19 survivors can experience persistent symptoms after recovering from their initial illness, especially among previously hospitalized persons. The majority of symptoms reported were fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, and sleep disorders. Mental conditions, such as depression and anxiety disorders, were also reported. In conclusion, this study showed that COVID-19 survivors can experience persistent symptoms after recovering from their initial illness. Therefore, there is a need for a long-term follow-up of COVID-19 patients and rehabilitation services for survivors. More research is needed in this area, especially in Africa.

Keywords: Long COVID; SARS-CoV-2; long haulers; long term effects of COVID; post-COVID syndrome; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / complications*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Survivors*
  • Time Factors