Covid-19

Six ‘types’ of COVID-19 identified – Use these to find how severe your infection might be, and if you may need help breathing

Posted on 20 July 2020

Scientists from King’s College in London say they have found there are six distinct types of the disease, characterised by a specific cluster of symptoms. Their study was based on data from a COVID-19 symptom-tracking app.

All people reporting symptoms using the app experienced headache and loss of smell, with varying combinations of additional symptoms at various times. Some of these, such as confusion, abdominal pain and shortness of breath, are not widely known as COVID-19 symptoms, yet are hallmarks of the most severe forms of the disease.

The six cluster are as follows:

1) ‘Flu-like’ with no fever: Headache, loss of smell, muscle pains, cough, sore throat, chest pain, no fever

2) ‘Flu-like’ with fever: Headache, loss of smell, cough, sore throat, hoarseness, fever, loss of appetite

3) Gastrointestinal: Headache, loss of smell, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, sore throat, chest pain, no cough

4) Severe level one, fatigue: Headache, loss of smell, cough, fever, hoarseness, chest pain, fatigue

5) Severe level two, confusion: Headache, loss of smell, loss of appetite, cough, fever, hoarseness, sore throat, chest pain, fatigue, confusion, muscle pain

6) Severe level three, abdominal and respiratory: Headache, loss of smell, loss of appetite, cough, fever, hoarseness, sore throat, chest pain, fatigue, confusion, muscle pain, shortness of breath, diarrhoea, abdominal pain

Top: Frequency of positive answers per symptoms across days for each cluster (darker=reported more frequently), and
Bottom: Associated Z-Score of presentation of symptoms over overall symptom distribution (red = reported more than average; 5 blue = reported less than average). The clusters are ordered from left to right by rates of reported hospital visit with associated rates of respiratory support of 1.5%, 4.4%, 3.7%, 8.6%, 9.9% and 19.8% respectively.

The study was released online at the end of last week, but has not been peer-reviewed by independent scientists.


References

Press release by King's College London: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/news/six-distinct-types-of-covid-19-identified

The pre-print, non-peer reviewed paper is available online: Carole H Sudre et al. Symptom clusters in Covid19: A potential clinical prediction tool from the COVID Symptom study app (2020) medRxiv: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.06.12.20129056v1

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