A consortium of Luxembourg research institutions studying the national population has attempted to identify factors that may contribute to variations in the severity of COVID-19 and associated symptoms. In their most recent study, the teams were able to show that people who were more physically active before the infection not only had less severe illnesses, but were also less likely to experience symptoms such as fatigue, a dry cough and chest pain.
The COVID-19 infection manifests itself through a multitude of symptoms, which differ in type and intensity and consequently lead to very different outcomes for affected patients. The risk of more severe forms of Covid-19 increases with age. However, little is currently known about other clinical and biological features that lead to the observed differences in disease severity and prognosis. In this context, the “Predi-COVID” project was started in 2020 with the aim of defining which patient profiles can be associated with a more severe prognosis.
The Predi-COVID study is led by the LIH and a consortium of Luxembourg research institutions including the Integrated Biobank of Luxembourg (IBBL), the Laboratoire National de Santé (LNS), the University of Luxembourg, the Luxembourg Center for Systems Biomedicine ( LCSB) and the Center Hospitalier de Luxembourg (CHL). Overall, this unique project has delivered important results that will help improve understanding and management of the outbreak while leading to improved patient care.
In its most recent publication, the consortium examined the association between pre-infection physical activity (PA) and the severity of COVID-19. This included a look at the association between PA and 12 secondary symptoms, with common examples such as a dry cough, fever, loss of taste and smell, and fatigue, as well as some lesser-known symptoms such as chest pain, confusion, and falls.
“Although PA has been shown to reduce the risk of severe COVID-19 clinical outcomes (eg, hospitalization or death), there is still limited information on the impact of PA on COVID-19 severity in patients with less severe ones diseases and the risk of developing specific symptoms.” explains Dr. Laurent Malisoux, group leader of the Physical Activity, Sport and Health Research Group at LIH, who led the study.
The analysis was carried out on 452 volunteers between the ages of 31 and 51 who filled out a questionnaire to indicate their physical activity levels for the year prior to their infection. This included activities like hiking, gardening, and other everyday tasks, as well as more strenuous activities like exercising. These results allowed the researchers to create scores that ranked each individual’s PA on a weekly basis, which could then be compared to the prevalence of symptoms and disease severity.
The researchers found that participants with a higher PA had a lower risk of moderate COVID-19 severity, confirming the group’s original hypothesis. In addition, higher PA levels were also associated with a reduced risk of fatigue, dry cough and chest pain, which are among the most commonly reported symptoms in patients who test positive for COVID-19.
This study provides evidence that PA is a modifiable risk factor for COVID-19 severity, including moderate illness. Our findings suggest that participating in regular PA may be one of the most important actions individuals can take to minimize the adverse consequences of COVID-19.”
dr Guy Fagherazzi, Director, Department of Precision Health and Principal Investigator of Predi-COVID.
These results highlight that we as individuals may have more power than we think when it comes to protecting ourselves from infectious diseases like COVID-19. It is the job of novel initiatives like Predi-COVID to continue uncovering this information so the public and healthcare professionals can work together to make living with COVID a more acceptable reality.
The study was published under the full title on April 29, 2022 in BMJ Open, a peer-reviewed open access journal dedicated to medical research across disciplines and therapeutic areas “Associations between Preinfection Physical Activity and COVID-19 Disease Severity and Symptoms: Results of the Predi-COVID Prospective Cohort Study” (DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-057863).
The success of Predi-COVID heralded the creation of CoVaLux (COVID-19, Vaccination & Long-Term Health Consequences of COVID-19 in Luxembourg), which picks up where its predecessor left off. The collaboration, coordinated by Research Luxembourg, is now turning its attention to the effectiveness of vaccines and the longer-term health implications of the disease as we try to finally get ahead of the pandemic.
Financing and Cooperations
The Predi-COVID study is supported by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) (Predi-COVID, grant number 14716273), the André Losch Foundation and the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER, Convention 2018-04-026-21). .
Luxembourg Institute of Health