Healthcare Experts Say Long COVID Threat Means the Virus ‘Isn’t Done With Us Yet’
Medical experts fear long term fallout from being infected by COVID-19 could be even more of a challenge to global healthcare than the pandemic itself.
‘Long COVID’ impacts victims in many ways, meaning that treatments need to be far more diversified, and therefore in urgent need of heavy investment.
The World Nano Foundation (WNF) is a not-for-profit organisation promoting nanotechnology, a sector which played a major role in COVID vaccine and testing breakthroughs during the pandemic itself, and it can already see a need to step up against the Long COVID threat.
WNF co-founder Paul Sheedy said: “COVID isn’t done with us yet. A recent study from the Lancet’s EclinicalMedicine found that patients have reported over 200 individual symptoms of Long COVID across ten organ systems. This can be in a broad range of combinations for different patients, with symptoms potentially lasting years and making treatment extremely complicated.
“This will most likely cause an increase of patients for each sector within healthcare, such as pulmonary, cardiology, etc. for years to come, depending on where an individual patient is most debilitated.”
Britain’s Office for National Statistics found that 21% of people testing positive for COVID-19 continue to have at least one symptom five weeks after infection and 14% after 12 weeks. With lockdown restrictions now easing worldwide, Sheedy fears increasing transmission could burden global healthcare with rising numbers of Long COVID patients:
“With the potential increase of COVID transmission worldwide due to more virulent variants, Long COVID may become the latest challenge for global healthcare, already being pushed to the limit in each sector. Our systems must evolve to meet this new demand.
“Long COVID could also have a significant impact in developing countries, where facilities needed to treat rising infections are simply not available. So investment is vital to ensure global health systems can progress to deliver high-quality care to an increasing number of patients.”
Sheedy’s view is backed by a general partner at the Vector Innovation Fund (VIF), Paul Stannard, who called for a more decentralised, point-of-care-based healthcare model to cope with rising pressures from Long COVID:
“Investing in healthtech can accelerate a global transformation to a more preventive, decentralised and efficient global healthcare system. The greater technology available to us, the more patients can test and care for themselves at home, only coming into hospitals or health centres when there is no other option to provide care.
“This is the future of healthcare, and the sooner we embrace that and invest, the better.”
Healthcare technology investment soared 47% in 2020 to a new high of $51 billion, and will rocket to even greater heights. Global healthcare investment is tipped to pass $10 trillion by 2022 on a 10-year upward trajectory, already being dubbed the ‘COVID decade’ by the investment world.
Investment has continued into 2021; late-stage median deal sizes involving healthcare companies rose to €5.8 million in the first quarter of the year according to investment monitoring platform Pitchbook, on course for a record year.