Objective: Post-acute sequelae of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) or long COVID (LC) is an emerging global health issue. Fatigue is a common feature. Whether thyroid function and autoimmunity play a role is uncertain. We aimed to evaluate the prevalence and predictors of LC and the potential role of thyroid function and autoimmunity in LC.
Methods: We included consecutive adults without a known thyroid disorder who were admitted to a major COVID-19 center for confirmed COVID-19 from July to December 2020. Thyroid function tests and antithyroid antibodies were measured for all patients on admission and at follow-up. LC was defined by the presence or persistence of symptoms upon follow-up.
Results: In total, 204 patients (median age, 55.0 years; 95 men [46.6%]) were reassessed at a median of 89 days (interquartile range, 69-99) after acute COVID-19. Of the 204 patients, 41 (20.1%) had LC. Female sex (adjusted odds ratio, 2.48; P = .018) and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 polymerase chain reaction cycle threshold value of <25 on admission (adjusted odds ratio, 2.84; P = .012) independently predicted the occurrence of LC. Upon follow-up, most abnormal thyroid function tests in acute COVID-19 resolved, and incident thyroid dysfunction was rare. Nonetheless, we observed incident antithyroid peroxidase (anti-TPO) positivity. Although baseline or follow-up thyroid function tests were not associated with the occurrence of LC, among 172 patients with symptomatic acute COVID-19, symptom resolution was more likely in those with positive anti-TPO upon follow-up (P = .043).
Conclusion: LC is common among COVID-19 survivors, with females and those with higher viral load in acute COVID-19 particularly being vulnerable. The observation of incident anti-TPO positivity warrants further follow-up for thyroid dysfunction. Whether anti-TPO plays a protective role in LC remains to be elucidated.
Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; autoantibodies; autoimmunity; post–acute COVID-19 syndrome; thyroid function tests.
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