Home Biomedical research Long-time Covid sufferers may have hidden damage to their lungs, new MRI study reveals

Long-time Covid sufferers may have hidden damage to their lungs, new MRI study reveals


People with long-term Covid may have hidden lung damage, a small study in the UK has suggested.

Scientists supported by the Oxford Biomedical Research Center used xenon gas scanning to detect abnormalities in the lungs of those who suffered from shortness of breath after having Covid.

The study uses the odorless, colorless, tasteless and chemically unreactive gas to investigate possible lung damage in patients who have not been admitted to hospital but continue to experience the symptom.

Early results from the study suggest there is significantly impaired gas transfer from the lungs to the bloodstream in long Covid patients despite other tests – including CT scans – returning to normal.

The lungs of a healthy patient (left) and that of a patient with Long Covid (right) in the study

A larger study was commissioned to confirm the results of this small sample.

Lead researcher Dr Emily Fraser said the bbc the study was born out of the frustration of medical professionals who could not find clinical reasons for shortness of breath using X-rays and CT scans.

Dr Fraser said: ‘This is important research and I really hope it sheds more light on this.

“It’s important for people to know that rehabilitation strategies and respiratory rehabilitation can be really helpful.

“When we see people in the clinic who are breathless, we can make progress.”

The method and clinical applications were developed by Professor Jim Wild and the Pulmonary, Lung and Respiratory Imaging Sheffield (Polaris) Research Group at the University of Sheffield.

Professor Wild said: “Xenon follows the oxygen pathway as it is absorbed through the lungs and can tell us where the abnormality is between the airways, gas exchange membranes and capillaries in lungs.”

The study’s co-chief investigator, Professor Fergus Gleeson, told the BBC: ‘There are now important questions to answer, such as how many patients with long Covid will have abnormal scans, the significance of the anomaly that we have detected, the cause of the anomaly and its longer-term consequences.

“Once we understand the mechanisms behind these symptoms, we will be in a better position to develop more effective treatments.”

Xenon gas is visible on scans unlike oxygen, which means it can be used to track how well the lungs are moving gas through the body.

Gas transfer was significantly less efficient in Long Covid patients than in their healthy counterparts.

The paper has not yet been peer reviewed and should therefore be treated with skepticism.

The ONS calculates that 506,000, 40%, have suffered from the wide-ranging illness called Long Covid for more than a year.

The estimates are based on a survey of 350,000 people who said they had Long Covid, meaning they weren’t necessarily diagnosed.

These responses were collected in the four weeks leading up to December 6, before the recent spike in Covid infections caused by the Omicron variant.

Britain’s Covid cases continued to fall by 5.3 per cent in a week today, official figures showed, as the Omicron wave recedes across the country.

Data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows there are 72,727 positive tests in the past 24 hours, up from 76,807 recorded last week.

It was the fifth day in a row that cases had fallen – after briefly picking up on Sunday and Monday. However, the UK-wide figures do not include cases in Scotland today, so the actual decline may not be as steep as it appears.

The number of people who died with the virus also continued to fall slightly today, reducing by 0.3% to 296 from the 297 recorded last week.

The figures come after thousands of punters took to dance floors across England without needing to show Covid passes or use masks for the first time since Plan B measures took effect. ended last night.

Revelers packed clubs, bars and pubs across England last night for boozy celebrations as the nation fully embraced its first party weekend without Plan B measures in place.


In December 2021, an estimated 506,000 people in the UK had long Covid, according to the NHS.

Long Covid is an informal term, used to describe ongoing symptoms following a Covid infection that last longer than 12 weeks.

A dizzying array of symptoms have been attributed to the long Covid, including:

  • extreme tiredness (tiredness)
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain or tightness
  • memory and concentration problems (“brain fog”)
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • Heart palpitations
  • dizziness
  • have ants
  • articular pain
  • depression and anxiety
  • tinnitus, earache
  • nausea, diarrhoea, upset stomach, loss of appetite
  • high temperature, cough, headache, sore throat, changes in smell or taste
  • Rashes

There is no cure for the disease, although the NHS recommends a number of treatments designed to help relieve symptoms.