O coronavirus contagion it can leave long-term sequels, such as persistent COVID, and also increase the chances of developing other diseases. Now, new research has found that people who have had COVID-19 to have increased risk of gastrointestinal disorders in the year after infection than those who were not infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Gastrointestinal disorders can range from mild stomach problems to life-threatening illnesses such as liver failure or acute pancreatitis. The main conditions that the study authors have linked to COVID are liver disease, acute pancreatitis, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux, and peptic ulcers (inner lining of the stomach or upper part of the small intestine). Other bowel disorders associated with COVID are constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain and distention, and vomiting.

“Gastrointestinal issues were the first reported by the patient community,” said Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, a clinical epidemiologist at Washington University in St. from work. “It is increasingly clear that the gastrointestinal tract serves as a reservoir for the virus”.

“Vaccines do not offer complete protection against the long-term symptoms of COVID-19 that can affect the heart, lungs, brain and gastrointestinal tract”

The findings were published in Nature Communications and build on previous Al-Aly research describing the lingering effects of COVID-19 in organs such as the brain, heart and kidneys, among others. “The virus can be destructive, even among people who are considered healthy or who have had mild infections. We are seeing the ability of COVID-19 to attack any organ system in the body, sometimes with serious long-term consequences, including death,” warns Al-Aly.

Researchers believe that infections caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus have so far contributed to more than 6 million new cases of gastrointestinal disorders in the United States and 42 million new cases worldwide. Al-Aly, who treats patients at the St. Louis and is head of the research and development service, says that, due to the number of patients affected, it is “crucial to include the gastrointestinal health as an integral part of post-acute COVID care.”

Up to 62% more ulcer risk after going through COVID

The researchers analyzed nearly 14 million anonymous medical records from a database at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the nation’s largest integrated health care system, and from there built a controlled dataset of 154,068 people who tested positive. for COVID between March 1, 2020 and January 15, 2021 and survived the first 30 days after infection.

They used a statistical model to compare the GI outcomes in the COVID-19 dataset with two other groups of uninfected individuals: a control group of more than 5.6 million people who did not have COVID during the same period. and a control group of more than 5.8 million people from March 1, 2018 to December 31, 2019, long before the coronavirus caused a pandemic.

Most of the people included in the study were older white men, but data from more than 1.1 million women and adults of all races and ages were also analyzed. The results showed that generally the gastrointestinal disturbances were 36% more likely in people with COVID-19 – regardless of whether they were hospitalized or not – compared to those who were not infected with the virus.

Few of these people were vaccinated against COVID-19 because vaccines were not widely available during the study period (between March 2020 and early January 2021) and SARS-CoV-2 variants such as delta and omicron. The latest data indicate that COVID-19 vaccines provide some protection against long-term COVID, however, Al-Aly cautions: “While vaccines can help reduce long-term COVID risks, they do not offer complete protection against the long-term COVID-19. long-term symptoms of COVID-19 that can affect the heart, lungs, brain and now, we know, the gastrointestinal tract.”

The results showed that people who had COVID-19 had a 62% higher risk of developing peptic ulcers, a 35% higher risk of gastrointestinal reflux and a 46% higher risk of acute pancreatitis, compared to those who did not. infected. Individuals who have experienced COVID were also 54% more likely to develop irritable bowel syndrome, 47% more likely to experience inflammation of the stomach lining, 36% more likely to have stomach pain for no apparent reason, and 54% more likely to experience symptoms digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, vomiting and abdominal pain.