COVID-19 long-haulers, even those with mild infections of the virus, experience significant decline in kidney function, according to a deep dive into federal health data.

The findings add to concerns that many people who have had COVID-19 go on to suffer a range of adverse conditions months after their initial infections.

The data show that those infected with SARS-CoV-2 are at an increased likelihood of developing kidney damage as well as chronic and end-stage kidney diseases.

Known as the silent killer, kidney dysfunction and disease tend to be free of pain and other symptoms—so much so that the National Kidney Foundation estimates that 90% of people with ailing kidneys don’t know it. Kidney disease affects 37 million people in the US and is one of the nation’s leading causes of death.

“Our findings emphasize the critical importance of paying attention to kidney function and disease in caring for patients who have had COVID-19,” says senior author Ziyad Al-Aly, an assistant professor of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis.

“If kidney care isn’t an integral part of COVID-19 post-acute care strategy, then we will miss opportunities to help potentially hundreds of thousands of people who have no idea that their kidney function has declined due to this virus. This is in addition to the millions of Americans who suffer from kidney disease not caused by COVID-19.”

Read the full article about COVID-19 and kidney disease by Kristina Sauerwein at Futurity.