Covid-19 is associated with an increased risk of developing long-term gastrointestinal disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome, according to a global study conducted in 14 countries including India.
Irritable bowel syndrome tends to be chronic, characterised by a number of intestinal disorders affecting the colon, including altered bowel motility, bloating, and abdominal cramping.
The research, published in the journal Gut, showed that among people with new diagnoses of irritable bowel syndrome also emerged more frequently.It was also found to be associated with the coexistence of allergies, breathing difficulties during hospitalisation for Covid-19, and chronic intake of proton pump inhibitors (gastroprotectant drugs that block acid production in the stomach).
"We know that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can also infect the gastrointestinal tract, and this confirms the possibility that Covid-19 can lead to the development of irritable bowel syndrome," explains Giovanni Marasco, a researcher at the Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences at the University of Bologna in Italy.
The study involved 2,183 patients hospitalised in 36 facilities in 14 countries: Italy, Bangladesh, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, India, Macedonia, Malaysia, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey.
Patients who had contracted Covid-19 were evaluated upon admission to the hospital and then followed up for the next 12 months, comparing their condition with that of patients not infected with the coronavirus.
The analysis showed that patients hospitalised for Covid more frequently reported the presence of gastrointestinal symptoms (59.3 per cent) than the control group (39.7 per cent).In addition, the researchers found that at 6 months and 12 months after hospitalisation, higher levels of anxiety and depression were reported among those who had Covid-19.
Further, the researchers found traces of the coronavirus in the small intestine even six months after infection."This leads us to believe that the prolonged state of inflammation and activation of the immune system may lead to the development of the gastrointestinal symptoms that were observed," Marasco said.
While it is well known that viral infections can affect the gastrointestinal system and specifically promote the development of the condition, it was unclear whether coronavirus infection could also lead to these consequences.
In a another recent study, published in the journal Nature Communications, people with Covid-19 were found to be at an increased risk of developing gastrointestinal (GI) disorders such as liver problems, acute pancreatitis, irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux, and ulcers, within a year after infection compared with people who haven't been infected.
"Given the vast spread of Covid-19 globally, we should therefore expect an increase in diagnoses related to gut-brain interaction disorders," explains Giovanni Barbara, professor at the varsity's Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences.