(This July 17 story corrects paragraph seven to say the study was published online June 16, not July 16)
LONDON (Reuters) – British scientists analyzing data from a widely used COVID-19 symptom tracking app have found there are six distinct types of the disease, each distinguished by a cluster of symptoms.
A team from King’s College London found that the six types were also correlated with levels of infection severity and the likelihood of a patient needing help with breathing – such as oxygen or ventilator treatment – if he is hospitalized.
The findings could help doctors predict which COVID-19 patients are most at risk and likely to need hospital care in future waves of the outbreak.
“If you can predict who these people are on day five, you have time to provide them with support and early interventions such as monitoring oxygen and blood sugar levels and making sure they are properly hydrated,” said Claire Steves, a physician who co-led the study.
Along with cough, fever and loss of smell – often highlighted as three key symptoms of COVID-19 – the app’s data showed others, including headache, muscle aches, fatigue, diarrhea, confusion, loss of appetite and shortness of breath.
The results also varied considerably; some had mild flu-like symptoms or a rash and others suffered acute symptoms or died.
The study, published online June 16 but not peer-reviewed by independent scientists, describes the six types of COVID-19 as follows:
1 “Flu-like” without fever: Headache, loss of sense of smell, muscle aches, cough, sore throat, chest pain, no fever.
2 “Flu” with fever: Headache, loss of sense of smell, cough, sore throat, hoarseness, fever, loss of appetite.
3 Gastrointestinal: Headache, loss of smell, loss of appetite, diarrhea, sore throat, chest pain, no cough.
4 Severe level one, fatigue: Headache, loss of sense of smell, cough, fever, hoarseness, chest pain, fatigue.
5 Severe level 2, confusion: Headache, loss of sense of smell, loss of appetite, cough, fever, hoarseness, sore throat, chest pain, fatigue, confusion, muscle aches.
6 Severe grade 3, abdominal and respiratory: Headache, loss of sense of smell, loss of appetite, cough, fever, hoarseness, sore throat, chest pain, fatigue, confusion, muscle aches, shortness of breath, diarrhea, abdominal pain.
Level 4, 5 and 6 patients were more likely to be admitted to hospital and more likely to need respiratory support, the researchers said.
Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Kevin Liffey