Which COVID-19 Symptoms Lead to Severe Respiratory Complications?

Tuesday, July 21, 2020 - 12:49
COVID-19 Symptoms

A new study says that is precisely the case, providing six different clusters of symptoms that COVID-19 patients can experience.

Using data from an app that requires patients to log their symptoms, COVID-19 diagnosis status, and progress of the illness, scientists at King’s College London used machine learning to group symptoms together, BGR reports.

Using patient characteristics like age, sex, and medical conditions combined with symptom data from the first five days after onset, the scientists think they can predict nearly 80% of the time a patient would require respiratory support.

“Anything you can do earlier to stop people coming in half-dead is going to increase the chance of survival and also stop clogging up hospital beds unnecessarily,” Professor Tim Spector of King’s College London told The Guardian. The study has been published in medRxiv, which means it hasn’t been peer-reviewed.

The researchers looked at data from a mobile app that has more than four million users and included 1,653 users in the study who tested positive for COVID-19 and then reported symptoms and provided updates on their health status. Of those, 383 made at least one trip to the hospital, and 107 needed oxygen or ventilation.

The researchers applied machine learning algorithms to the data to explore whether the 14 symptoms they monitored can cluster together, and they identified six different groups of COVID-19 patients. Each cluster was associated with a particular outcome, and that’s why the scientists think they know which combination of symptoms can be indicative of serious illness.

These are the six coronavirus symptoms groups that the King’s College London team identified:

Cluster 1 (462 patients): Upper respiratory tract symptoms like a persistent cough, and muscle pain. Some 1.5% of patients needed respiratory support, and 16% of them made at least a trip to the hospital.

Cluster 2 (315 patients): Upper respiratory tract symptoms, a higher frequency of skipped meals, and fever. Of this group, 4.4% of patients needed respiratory support, and 17.5% made one or more visits to the hospital.

Cluster 3 (216 patients): Gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, but few other symptoms. 3.7% of patients in this group needed respiratory support, and 24% made at least one visit to the hospital.

Cluster 4 (280 patients): Early signs of severe fatigue, continuous chest pain, and cough. 8.6% of patients needed respiratory support, and 23.6% went to the hospital at least once.

Cluster 5 (213 patients): Confusion, skipped meals, severe fatigue. 9.9% of patients needed respiratory therapy, and 24.6% went to the hospital at least once.

Cluster 6 (167 patients): Marked respiratory distress, the onset of breathlessness, chest pain, confusion, fatigue, gastrointestinal symptoms. As many as 20% of the patients in this group needed respiratory support, and 45.5% went at least once to the hospital.

“By recording all the symptoms and when they occur in something like a medical app, you can significantly increase the ability to predict who is going to need hospital support, and potentially save lives,” Spector said. But people would have to remember to log symptoms and stick with it no matter how sick they get.


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