Profiling post-COVID-19 condition across different variants of SARS-CoV-2: a prospective longitudinal study in unvaccinated wild-type, unvaccinated alpha-variant, and vaccinated delta-variant populations

Liane S. Canas*, Erika Molteni, Jie Deng, Carole H. Sudre, Benjamin Murray, Eric Kerfoot, Michela Antonelli, Khaled Rjoob, Joan Capdevila Pujol, Lorenzo Polidori, Anna May, Marc F. Österdahl, Ronan Whiston, Nathan J. Cheetham, Vicky Bowyer, Tim D. Spector, Alexander Hammers, Emma L. Duncan, Sebastien Ourselin, Claire J. StevesMarc Modat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Self-reported symptom studies rapidly increased understanding of SARS-CoV-2 during the COVID-19 pandemic and enabled monitoring of long-term effects of COVID-19 outside hospital settings. Post-COVID-19 condition presents as heterogeneous profiles, which need characterisation to enable personalised patient care. We aimed to describe post-COVID-19 condition profiles by viral variant and vaccination status. Methods: In this prospective longitudinal cohort study, we analysed data from UK-based adults (aged 18–100 years) who regularly provided health reports via the Covid Symptom Study smartphone app between March 24, 2020, and Dec 8, 2021. We included participants who reported feeling physically normal for at least 30 days before testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 who subsequently developed long COVID (ie, symptoms lasting longer than 28 days from the date of the initial positive test). We separately defined post-COVID-19 condition as symptoms that persisted for at least 84 days after the initial positive test. We did unsupervised clustering analysis of time-series data to identify distinct symptom profiles for vaccinated and unvaccinated people with post-COVID-19 condition after infection with the wild-type, alpha (B.1.1.7), or delta (B.1.617.2 and AY.x) variants of SARS-CoV-2. Clusters were then characterised on the basis of symptom prevalence, duration, demography, and previous comorbidities. We also used an additional testing sample with additional data from the Covid Symptom Study Biobank (collected between October, 2020, and April, 2021) to investigate the effects of the identified symptom clusters of post-COVID-19 condition on the lives of affected people. Findings: We included 9804 people from the COVID Symptom Study with long COVID, 1513 (15%) of whom developed post-COVID-19 condition. Sample sizes were sufficient only for analyses of the unvaccinated wild-type, unvaccinated alpha variant, and vaccinated delta variant groups. We identified distinct profiles of symptoms for post-COVID-19 condition within and across variants: four endotypes were identified for infections due to the wild-type variant (in unvaccinated people), seven for the alpha variant (in unvaccinated people), and five for the delta variant (in vaccinated people). Across all variants, we identified a cardiorespiratory cluster of symptoms, a central neurological cluster, and a multi-organ systemic inflammatory cluster. These three main clusers were confirmed in a testing sample. Gastrointestinal symptoms clustered in no more than two specific phenotypes per viral variant. Interpretation: Our unsupervised analysis identified different profiles of post-COVID-19 condition, characterised by differing symptom combinations, durations, and functional outcomes. Our classification could be useful for understanding the distinct mechanisms of post-COVID-19 condition, as well as for identification of subgroups of individuals who might be at risk of prolonged debilitation. Funding: UK Government Department of Health and Social Care, Chronic Disease Research Foundation, The Wellcome Trust, UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, UK Research and Innovation London Medical Imaging & Artificial Intelligence Centre for Value-Based Healthcare, UK National Institute for Health Research, UK Medical Research Council, British Heart Foundation, UK Alzheimer's Society, and ZOE.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e421-e434
JournalThe Lancet Digital Health
Issue number7
Early online date28 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


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