A consortium of Luxembourg research institutes studying the national population has sought to identify factors that may contribute to variations in the severity of COVID-19 and its associated symptoms. In their most recent study, the teams were able to show that individuals who were more physically active before infection not only exhibited less serious illness, but were also less likely to experience symptoms such as fatigue, dry cough, and chest pain.
The COVID-19 infection manifests itself through a wide range of symptoms, varying in type and intensity, and consequently resulting in 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 characteristics that lead to the observed differences in the severity and prognosis of the disease. In this context, the project “Predi-COVID” was launched in 2020 with the aim of defining which patient profiles can be associated with a more serious prognosis.
The Predi-COVID study is led by 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 yielded important results that help improve the understanding and management of the outbreak, while leading to improvements in patient care.
In its latest publication, the consortium examined the association between physical activity (PA) before infection and the severity of COVID-19. This included a look at the association between PA and twelve secondary symptoms, with common examples such as dry cough, fever, loss of taste and smell and fatigue, as well as some lesser known ones such as chest pain, confusion and falls.
“Although PA has been shown to reduce the risk of severe clinical COVID-19 outcomes (eg hospitalization or death), there is still limited information on the impact of PA on the severity of COVID-19 in patients with less severe disease and the risk of developing specific symptoms “ explains Dr. Laurent Malisoux, group leader at LIH’s research group for physical activity, sports and health, who led the study.
The analysis was performed on 452 volunteers between the ages of 31 and 51 who had reported their physical activity in the year before their infection using a questionnaire. This included activities such as walking, gardening and other daily chores as well as more strenuous activities such as sports. These results allowed researchers to produce scores that ranked each person’s PA on a weekly basis, which could then be compared to the incidence of symptoms and the severity of the disease.
The researchers found that participants with greater PA had a lower risk of moderate COVID-19 severity, confirming the group’s original hypothesis. In addition, a higher level of PA was also associated with a reduced risk of experiencing fatigue, dry cough and chest pain, which are among the most frequently reported symptoms in patients who have tested positive for COVID-19.
This study shows that PA is a modifiable risk factor for the severity of COVID-19, including moderate illness. Our results suggest that engaging in regular PA may be one of the most important actions individuals can take to minimize the negative consequences of COVID-19. “
Dr. Guy Fagherazzi, Director, Department of Precision Health and Chief Investigator of Predi-COVID.
These results help highlight that we as individuals may have more power than we think when it comes to protecting ourselves from infectious diseases such as COVID-19. It is the task of new initiatives such as Predi-COVID to continue to reveal this information so that the public and healthcare professionals can work together to make life with COVID a more acceptable reality.
The study was published on April 29, 2022 in the BMJ Open, a peer-reviewed open access journal dedicated to medical research from all disciplines and therapeutic areas, under the full title “Relationships between pre-infection physical activity and COVID-19 disease severity and symptoms: results from the prospective Predi-COVID cohort study” (DOI: 10.1136 / bmjopen-2021-057863).
The success of Predi-COVID has heralded the creation of CoVaLux (COVID-19, Vaccination and the long-term health consequences of COVID-19 in Luxembourg), which continues where its predecessor left off. Coordinated by Research Luxembourg, the collaboration is now focusing on vaccines efficiency and the long-term health consequences of the disease when we appear to finally get ahead of the pandemic.
Funding and collaborations
The Predi-COVID study is supported by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) (Predi-COVID, grant number 14716273), the André Losch Foundation and by the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER, Convention 2018-04-026-21).