2 or more long-term health problems linked to a positive COVID-19 test result

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In a new study, researchers found the presence of two or more long term health conditions—known as multimorbidity—is linked to a 48% higher risk of a positive COVID-19 test.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Glasgow and elsewhere.

While it is well known that the risk of a severe COVID-19 infection is linked to certain long-term health conditions, little is known, so far, about the effects of multimorbidity and polypharmacy (taking multiple medications) on the risk of a serious COVID-19 infection.

This study is the first to link both multimorbidity and polypharmacy with the risk of having a positive COVID-19 test.

This association was particularly strong for those with two or more cardiometabolic health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

The study is based on UK Biobank data, which is now linked to COVID-19 test results, and included 428,199 adults aged 37-73 at the time of recruitment (2006-2010) across England and Wales.

The researchers found that the presence of two or more such conditions was associated with a 77% higher risk of a positive COVID-19 test.

Overall, people with multimorbidity who appeared to have the highest risk of COVID-19 infection were from socioeconomically deprived areas, of non-white ethnicity, severely obese, and those with reduced renal function.

Those of non-white ethnicity, who also had multimorbidity, had almost three times the risk of a positive COVID-19 test.

The researchers believe their findings will have implications for clinical and public health decision making as the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic continues around the world.

They say that multimorbidity and polypharmacy are global healthcare challenges in their own right.

This study shows that having a positive COVID-19 test is more common in those living with these health conditions.

These results will be important for public health and clinical decisions in the future as doctors continue to manage the health of those at greatest risk of a severe COVID-19 infection during this pandemic.

Given the high prevalence of multimorbidity, particularly in older age groups, the more detailed understanding of the associations between these complex health needs and COVID-19, as provided in this study, will improve the understanding of the risks and help doctors better advise those most vulnerable to severe infection.

One author of the study is Dr. Barbara Nicholl from the University of Glasgow.

The study is published in PLOS ONE.

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