NEW DELHI: Abnormalities have been identified in the lungs of long COVID patients that could offer a potential explanation for why some people experience breathlessness long after their initial infection, The Guardian has reported.
The findings, from a pilot study involving 36 patients, raise the possibility that COVID may cause microscopic damage to the lungs that is not detected using routine tests.
Breathlessness is a symptom in the majority of long COVID patients, but it has been unclear whether this is linked to other factors such as changes in breathing patterns, tiredness, or something more fundamental, the report said.
According to Dr Emily Fraser, a consultant at Oxford university hospitals and a co-author of the study, the latest findings are the first evidence that underlying lung health could be impaired, report said.
"It is the first study to demonstrate lung abnormalities in [people with long COVID] who are breathless and where other investigations are unremarkable," said Fraser. "It does suggest the virus is causing some kind of persistent abnormality within the microstructure of the lungs or in the pulmonary vasculature."
More work would be required to clarify the clinical significance of the findings, she added, including how the apparent abnormalities relate to breathlessness, the report said.
Claire Steves, a clinical senior lecturer at King's College London who was not involved in the work, said the findings would be of significant interest to anyone living with long-term breathlessness after COVID.
"They suggest that the efficiency of the lung in doing what it is meant to do exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen may be compromised, even though the structure of the lung appears normal," she said.