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Risk of Developing Kidney Disease Higher among COVID-19 Long-Haulers

Risk of Developing Kidney Disease Higher among COVID-19 Long-Haulers

Sep 20th 2021
Author: Amna N.
Review: Dr. Umair H.

A new study suggests that people who suffered from long COVID-19 are at a greater risk of developing kidney diseases and end-stage renal disease (ESRD) after recovery. New data was gathered at the Washington State University School of Medicine and the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System and the study was published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. The study was based on health information from more than 1.7 million healthy and COVID-infected people from March 1, 2020, through March 15, 2021. Out of these people, 89,216 were diagnosed with COVID-19 and survived the acute phase (the first 30 days of the disease). The alarming data was uncovered by a team of physician-researchers and epidemiologists.

People who suffer from long COVID-19 experience prolonged symptoms one, two or even three months after they were infected. The most concerning part is that there is no consistent reason for this to happen. Such people are referred to as COVID-19 long-haulers. This condition can affect people both with mild and severe cases.

A researcher from the group of scientists who published the study stated that people who had relatively mild disease and did not need hospitalization also went on to develop kidney problems including AKI, a decline in glomerular filtration rate (GFR), and end-stage renal disease (ERKD) which was a matter of concern for the researchers and healthcare providers. However, the severity of kidney outcomes was proportional to the severity of acute infections. Hospitalized patients who experienced Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) experienced a greater long-term decrease in kidney function than non-hospitalized people with AKI.

During the study, it was also observed that people with long COVID can have a 30% decline in GFR without showing any symptoms. In this regard, doctors state that many people with kidney problems are asymptomatic and are unaware of the fact that they need treatment unless it gets severe. According to the study, a major decline in kidney function occurs in the first 120 days and then levels off.

Despite being the largest study on post-acute sequelae of COVID (PASC), the study has its limitations. Studying veterans, a group consisting of people mostly above the age of 60, white males — limits the study population, which probably reduces the ability to generalize outcomes to the rest of the populations.

The researchers recommend integrating kidney care into post-acute COVID-19 care pathways. For better understanding, NIH is studying and conducting trials on how SARS-CoV-2 may lead to widespread and lasting symptoms and is working to develop ways to treat or prevent these conditions.