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90% of recovered COVID-19 patients still have lung damage: report

Ninety percent of 100 recovered COVID-19 patients who received treatment in a Wuhan hospital still have lung damage and 5 percent of them have been quarantined again after positive test results, media reports revealed Tuesday.

A team at the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University led by Peng Zhiyong, director of the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, has been conducting follow-up visits with 100 patients since April. The first phase of the one-year program was finished in July, media reports said.

The average age of the 100 patients is 59.

According to the first phase results, 90 percent of the patients’ lungs are still in a damaged state, which means their lungs’ ventilation and gas exchange functions have not recovered to the level of healthy people.

Peng’s team conducted a six-minute walking test with the patients. They found that they could only walk 400 meters in six minutes while their healthy peers could walk 500 meters in the same period.

Some recovered patients have to rely on oxygen machines even three months after being discharged from the hospital, Liang Tengxiao, a doctor from the Dongzhimen Hospital, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, was quoted as saying by the media.

Liang’s team is also conducting follow-up visits with recovered patients aged above 65.

The results also showed that antibodies against the novel coronavirus in 10 percent of the 100 patients Peng’s team visited have disappeared. Five percent of them received negative results in COVID-19 nucleic acid tests but positive results in Immunoglobulin M (IgM) tests, and thus have to be quarantined again.

IgM is usually the first antibody produced by the immune system when a virus attacks. A positive result in an IgM test usually means that a person has just been infected by the virus.

It is still unclear if this means these people have been infected again, media reports said.

The 100 patients’ immune systems have not fully recovered as they showed a low level of B cells but a high level of T cells – a primary force for killing viruses in the human body.

“The results revealed that the patients’ immune systems are still recovering,” Peng told the media.

The patients also suffered depression and a sense of stigma. Most of the recovered patients told the team that their families were not willing to have dinner with them at the same table, media reports said.

Less than half of the 100 recovered patients have returned to work, according to the reports.

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