Analysis of data collected by the Covid-19 Symptom Study app, developed by KCL researchers, has led to the classification of 6 distinct Covid-19 variants.
The types differ in symptom presentation and severity, with some necessitating “respiratory support” in hospital. The data was collected from approximately 1,600 individuals in the UK and US who were confirmed to have had Covid-19. While all patients reported headaches and a loss of smell, specific symptom presentation differed from subject to subject.
Researchers used this data to determine which individuals were likely to require respiratory assistance from a ventilator or other device. 1.5%, 4.4%, and 3.3% of patients from groups 1, 2, and 3 respectively were found to require such aid. Patients from the latter 3 groups required assistance more often: 8.6%, 9.9%, and 19.8% of those in groups 4, 5, and 6 respectively. Patients in the latter groups were, on average, older and/or more likely to have pre-existing health conditions.
This data has shown promising results in identifying Covid-positive patients before their conditions worsen. The average Covid-19 patient who eventually requires respiratory aid arrives at hospital 13 days after their first symptoms present – speedy diagnoses can be essential in these cases.
According to Dr Claire Steves of KCL, “these findings have important implications for care and monitoring of people who are most vulnerable to severe Covid-19. If you can predict who these people are at day five, you have time to give them support and early interventions.” Dr Carole Sudre mirrored her colleague’s sentiment: “This approach is helping us to understand the unfolding story of this disease in each patient so they can get the best care.”
Professor Tim Spector, a member of the research team responsible for the Covid-19 Symptom Tracker app, commented: “Data is our most powerful tool in the fight against Covid-19. We urge everyone to get in the habit of using the app daily to log their health over the coming months, helping us to stay ahead of any local hotspots or a second wave of infections.”
The research team has published its findings, though the paper has yet to be peer-reviewed. The classification of these 6 types of Covid-19 is the latest in a series of contributions KCL research teams have made to the ongoing study of the novel Coronavirus.