Young people infected with COVID-19 are likely to have increased cholesterol, a high body mass index (BMI), and reduced physical stamina after the viral infection, according to a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.
Some people with COVID-19 have lingering symptoms for weeks or months after they begin to recover, a condition termed as long COVID.
The researchers from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, found that these people may be more likely to develop metabolic disorders and cardiovascular complications in the long term.
“Increased BMI, high cholesterol and lower physical stamina are suggestive of a higher risk of developing metabolic disorders and possible cardiovascular complications,” said study principal investigator Patricia Schlagenhauf.
“These results have societal and public-health effects and can be used to guide strategies for broad interdisciplinary evaluation of COVID-19 sequelae (long COVID), their management, curative treatments, and provision of support in young adult populations,” Schlagenhauf said.
The study evaluated possible long COVID implications in young Swiss military personnel. It was conducted between May and November 2021 with 29 female and 464 male participants with a median age of 21.
As many as 177 participants had confirmed COVID-19 more than 180 days prior to the testing day, and the control group was made up of 251 SARS-CoV-2 individuals who tested negative for COVID-19.
Unlike other studies, the new research also evaluated cardiovascular, pulmonary, neurological, ophthalmological, male fertility, psychological and general systems.
The findings show that young, previously healthy, non-hospitalised individuals largely recover from the mild infection and that the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on several systems of the body is less than that seen in older, multi-morbid or hospitalised patients.
However, the study also found that recent infections — even mild ones — can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, reduced sense of smell and psychological problems for up to 180 days, as well as having a short-term negative impact on male fertility.
For non-recent infections — more than 180 days back — these effects were no longer significant, the researchers said.
For those with non-recent infections, however, the study — which had a long follow-up — provided evidence of potential risk.