By Ndubuisi Francis
There could be six distinct types of Covid-19, according to a new research from the King’s College, London, United Kingdom.
One of the initial conclusions from a team of researchers from the college is that the symptoms experienced in the first few days of a Covid-19 infection could help predict the course a patient’s illness will follow.
Their research identified six possible sub-divisions of Covid-19, using machine learning to analyse data from a symptom-tracking app.
These findings — from a pre-print paper — reflect how the thinking regarding the disease is evolving and how technologies are being leveraged to fight the disease.
The King’s College team scrutinised data from around 1,600 people with confirmed Covid-19 infections in the United Kingdom and United Stares of America.
Each had logged symptoms using an app during March and April. A second dataset of around 1,000 app users from the UK, US and Sweden who had logged their symptoms during May was also examined.
The researchers said they have been able to group symptoms into six divisions, which they say could indicate how unwell a patient could become.
Their six underlined clusters are: flu-like with no fever, indicating headache, loss of smell, muscle pains, cough, sore throat, chest pain, no fever.
*Flu-like with fever, manifesting headache, loss of smell, cough, sore throat, hoarseness, fever, loss of appetite;
* Gastrointestinal , showing headache, loss of smell, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, sore throat, chest pain with no cough;
* Severe level one with fatigue, headache, loss of smell, cough, fever, hoarseness, chest pain, fatigue.
* Severe level two which comes with confusion, headache, loss of smell, loss of appetite, cough, fever, hoarseness, sore throat, chest pain, fatigue, confusion, and muscle pain;
* Severe level three manifesting abdominal and respiratory symptoms, with headache, loss of smell, loss of appetite, cough, fever, hoarseness, sore throat, chest pain, fatigue, confusion, muscle pain, shortness of breath, diarrhoea and abdominal pain.
According to the researchers, the six categories represent a spectrum of breathing difficulties, adding that understanding this range could help with clinical management and matching patients with the right care effectively and efficiently.
Analyzing patient-provided information on symptoms and their outcomes, the research team said that while 16 per cent of group one patients were admitted to hospital, almost half of those in the last group were not.
They also found that patients in grouplace four, five and six tended to be older, and were more likely to have pre-existing conditions ranging from diabetes to obesity.
The specific combination of symptoms reported by a patient was found to be a potential indicator of whether they would become severely ill.
While underscoring the need for more research, the work indicated the importance of institutions around the world contributing to the wider pool of global Covid-19 knowledge.
The coronavirus crisis has sparked a range of global collaborations including the COVID Action Platform from the World Economic Forum.
So far, more than 350 public bodies and over 850 private organisations around the world have joined the platform, collaborating on 35 projects ranging from healthcare delivery and vaccines to supply chains and economic support.
The research King’size College research also demonstrates the power of new technologies in aiding medical research.
According to Sebastien Ourselin, a professor of healthcare engineering at King’s College, London and a senior author of the study: “Being able to gather big datasets through the app and apply machine learning to them is having a profound impact on our understanding of the extent and impact of COVID-19, and human health more widely.”