COVID-19 strains can be identified by cluster of symptoms, study says

The coronavirus has six strains and each can be identified by a cluster of symptoms that could help doctors identify patients with severe cases, a new study shows.

Scientists at King’s College in London made the discovery using an app that analyzed the symptoms of 1,600 Brits and Americans who had COVID-19 in March and April, the Daily Mail reported.

The data, which has not been peer-reviewed, showed six clusters of symptoms, each representing a strain of the coronavirus.

The researchers then identified which cluster of symptoms made patients seriously ill — enough to hospitalize them, the news outlet said.

The clusters range from mild to life-threatening.

Symptoms of the more mild strains range from flu-like symptoms with no fever to flu-like symptoms with a fever and diarrhea.

The three “severe” clusters, the Daily Mail reported, each has a symptom that helps doctors pinpoint the strain: fatigue, confusion and, finally, stomach pain and breathing problems.

With their findings, the scientists developed a model that uses age, sex, body mass index and pre-existing health conditions to predict who is at risk of hospitalization, the news outlet reported.

Patients who are more likely to suffer the severe strains are older, overweight and have pre-existing conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

The prediction tool would be particularly valuable in the fall, when public health experts expect another wave of COVID-19 to travel the world again, said Dr. Claire Steves, the lead researcher.

Doctors could give a heads-up to patients who might suffer the more severe strains and need to be hospitalized.

“If you can predict these vulnerable people earlier,” Steves said, “you have time to give them support and early interventions to reduce hospitalizations.”

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