The findings, from a pilot study involving 36 patients, raise the possibility that Covid may cause microscopic damage to the lungs that is not detected using routine tests.
Breathlessness is a symptom in most long Covid patients, but it has been unclear whether this is linked to other factors, such as changes in breathing patterns, tiredness, or something more fundamental.
According to Dr Emily Fraser, a consultant at Oxford University Hospitals and co-author of the study, the findings are the first evidence that underlying lung health could be impaired. She said: “It is the first study to demonstrate lung abnormalities in [people with long Covid] who are breathless and where other investigations are unremarkable . It does suggest the virus is causing some kind of persistent abnormality within the microstructure of the lungs or in the pulmonary vasculature.”
More work was needed to clarify the clinical significance of the findings, she said, including how they relate to breathlessness.
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