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In European journal of gastroenterology & hepatology

INTRODUCTION : Post-coronavirus disease (post-COVID) symptoms arise mostly from impaired function of respiratory tract although in many patients, the dysfunction of gastrointestinal tract and liver among other organ systems may persist.

METHODS : Primary data collection was based on a short gastrointestinal symptom questionnaire at the initial screening. A brief telephone survey within the patient and control group was performed 5-8 months after the initial screening. R ver. 4.0.5 and imbalanced RandomForest (RF) machine-learning algorithm were used for data explorations and analyses.

RESULTS : A total of 590 patients were included in the study. The general presence of gastrointestinal symptoms 208.2 days (153-230 days) after the initial acute severe acute respiratory syndrome corona virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection was 19% in patients with moderate-to-serious course of the disease and 7.3% in patients with mild course compared with 3.0% in SARS-CoV-2 negative controls (P < 0.001). Diarrhea and abdominal pain are the most prevalent post-COVID gastrointestinal symptoms. RF machine-learning algorithm identified acute diarrhea and antibiotics administration as the strongest predictors for gastrointestinal sequelae with area under curve of 0.68. Variable importance for acute diarrhea is 0.066 and 0.058 for antibiotics administration.

CONCLUSION : The presence of gastrointestinal sequelae 7 months after the initial SARS-CoV-2 infection is significantly higher in patients with moderate-to-severe course of the acute COVID-19 compared with asymptomatic patients or those with mild course of the disease. The most prevalent post-COVID gastrointestinal symptoms are diarrhea and abdominal pain. The strongest predictors for persistence of these symptoms are antibiotics administration and acute diarrhea during the initial infection.

Liptak Peter, Duricek Martin, Rosolanka Robert, Ziacikova Ivana, Kocan Ivan, Uhrik Peter, Grendar Marian, Hrnciarova Martina, Bucova Patricia, Galo David, Banovcin Peter