You might know your blood type, but now you could have a coronavirus “type” as well.
According to a new study from researchers at King’s College London, there are six distinct types of COVID-19. Each type is defined by a specific cluster of symptoms.
This discovery has the potential to help doctors re-imagine their coronavirus treatment strategies.
As the research team explained, “The findings have major implications for clinical management of COVID-19, and could help doctors predict who is most at risk and likely need hospital care in a second wave of coronavirus infections.”
About the King’s College London Study
The King’s College London study was inspired by the researchers’ observations of symptom changes throughout the course of COVID-19 infection. In particular, data gathered from a coronavirus symptom tracking app demonstrated that patients experience a wide range of symptoms, from headaches, muscle plains, and fatigue to cough, fever, shortness of breath, and many more.
As with other illnesses, the progression and outcomes of COVID-19 vary significantly between patients. Some only experience mild flu-like symptoms while others are hospitalized with fatal complications.
The King’s College research team sought to understand whether particular symptoms tend to appear together, and if so, how they relate to the progression of the disease. To answer their questions, the researchers used a machine learning algorithm to analyze data from 1,600 COVID-19 patients in the UK and US who regularly logged their symptoms using the coronavirus tracking app.
The Six Types of COVID-19, According to Researchers
After carefully evaluating the data from 1,600 COVID-19 patients, researchers identified six types of coronavirus infection:
- Flu-Like With No Fever. Symptoms include headache, loss of smell, muscle pains, cough, sore throat, chest pain, no fever.
- Flu-Like With Fever: Symptoms include headache, loss of smell, cough, sore throat, hoarseness, fever, loss of appetite.
- Gastrointestinal: Symptoms include headache, loss of smell, loss of appetite, diarrhea, sore throat, chest pain, no cough.
- Severe Level One, Fatigue: Symptoms include headache, loss of smell, cough, fever, hoarseness, chest pain, fatigue.
- Severe Level Two, Confusion: Symptoms include headache, loss of smell, loss of appetite, cough, fever, hoarseness, sore throat, chest pain, fatigue, confusion, muscle pain.
- Severe Level Three, Abdominal and Respiratory: Symptoms include headache, loss of smell, loss of appetite, cough, fever, hoarseness, sore throat, chest pain, fatigue, confusion, muscle pain, shortness of breath, diarrhea, abdominal pain.
What Do the Six Types of COVID-19 Teach Us?
The research team used these established symptoms patterns to investigate whether patients experiencing a specific “type” of coronavirus were more likely to require breathing support such as ventilation or oxygen.
They found that the number of patients who required breathing support spiked significantly from Types 1, 2, and 3 to Types 4, 5, and 6.
While only 1.5% of people experiencing Type 1 of COVID-19 required breathing support, 19.8% of people with Type 6 needed oxygen or ventilation. Furthermore, nearly half of the patients with Type 6 COVID-19 ended up in the hospital, compared with just 16% of those exhibiting Type 1.
Lead researcher Dr Carole Sudre from King’s College London said, ”Our study illustrates the importance of monitoring symptoms over time to make our predictions about individual risk and outcomes more sophisticated and accurate. This approach is helping us to understand the unfolding story of this disease in each patient so they can get the best care.”