May 19, 2024

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New evidence confirms link between long-duration COVID and chronic fatigue syndrome

New evidence confirms link between long-duration COVID and chronic fatigue syndrome


New evidence confirms link between long-duration COVID and chronic fatigue syndrome.

A new study published in Nature Communications adds to a growing body of evidence reporting similarities between long-duration COVID and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

The study found that about half of patients with long-duration COVID met diagnostic criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome.



Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and is often referred to under the umbrella term ME/CFS.

Over the past few years, researchers have slowly begun to better understand the disease, with a hypothesis emerging suggesting that it can be triggered by an acute viral infection.


A number of different pathogens are suspected of triggering ME/CFS, ranging from Epstein-Barr virus to dengue virus.

Some researchers speculate that up to 75% of ME/CFS cases can be traced directly to viral infection.


So, when patients in 2020 began to experience persistent fatigue-like illness after acute SARS-CoV-2 infection, a large number of researchers began to connect the dots.

Long-course COVID, now referred to by many clinicians as PASC (acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection), is a multisymptomatic condition, but many patients report features similar to ME/CFS, such as brain fog and decreased exercise capacity.



New evidence confirms link between long-duration COVID and chronic fatigue syndrome



ME/CFS researcher Carmen Scheibenbogen of the Charité School of Medicine in Berlin has spent the past two years investigating the overlap between the two post-viral conditions.

In a new study, Scheibenbogen and colleagues have shown that COVID-19 can trigger ME/CFS in some people.


Scheibenbogen said: “However, it is no small matter to provide scientific evidence to support these hypotheses. This is partly due to so little research on ME/CFS and the absence of generally accepted diagnostic criteria. Benefit from an extremely thorough diagnostic process and We have now been able to demonstrate that COVID-19 can trigger ME/CFS in a comprehensive comparison with patients who developed ME/CFS after a non-COVID-related infection.”


The study is the first published data from an ongoing project to track post-viral fatigue in COVID-19 patients.

The study focused on 42 young participants who all experienced persistent moderate-to-severe fatigue and exercise intolerance for at least 6 months after the acute onset of COVID-19.


Most people in this cohort suffered only mild initial cases of COVID-19. Only three were hospitalized during the acute infection, and none of the participants were vaccinated.


This PASC cohort was compared to a control group of age- and sex-matched ME/CFS patients known to have developed short-term illness after non-COVID infection.


About half of the post-COVID cohort met diagnostic criteria for ME/CFS. The main feature that distinguishes the post-COVID ME/CFS cohort is the time to exhaustion or post-exercise exhaustion.

In ME/CFS patients and post-COVID patients who met diagnostic criteria for ME/CFS, post-exertion discomfort persisted for well beyond 24 hours.


Perhaps the most interesting finding in this study is the difference between ME/CFS subjects and control ME/CFS patients after COVID.

Measurements of hand grip strength are frequently used to quantify muscle fatigue in ME/CFS, with similar weaknesses found between COVID and non-COVID ME/CFS patients.

But oddly, they were associated with very different biomarkers of inflammation.


“We further found that people with mild exertion intolerance (post-COVID) had lower grip strength if their levels of the cytokine interleukin-8 were elevated,” Scheibenbogen noted. “However, in the ME/CFS group, hand grip strength was associated with the hormone NT-proBNP, which can be released by muscle cells when oxygen supply is insufficient. This suggests that, in these individuals, muscle weakness may be caused by impaired blood supply. caused.”


So what does all this mean? Unfortunately, the frustrating answer is that it’s complicated. Perhaps more complicated than many researchers previously suspected.


These new findings suggest that long-course COVID, or PASC, is an incredibly heterogeneous chronic disease.

In some patients, it may appear similar to ME/CFS, but for others, long-course COVID may include some new neurological, vascular, or cardiovascular symptoms.


The new findings also mean that ME/CFS has the potential to be a more diverse disorder than suspected.

The study does speculate that fatigue following infection with the virus may manifest in different ways, depending on the pathogen that causes the disease.

So maybe ME/CFS triggered by Epstein-Barr virus is pathologically different from ME/CFS triggered by SARS-CoV-2?


A better understanding of the specificity of this type of post-viral fatigue syndrome will help researchers develop future treatments.

But Scheibenbogen did stress that few treatments are currently available to help patients with these conditions, so trying to avoid viral infections at this time may be the best course of action.


Scheibenbogen added: “Our data also provide further evidence that ME/CFS is not a mental disorder, but a serious physical disorder that can be measured and diagnosed with objective methods. Unfortunately, current Treatment of ME/CFS is purely symptomatic in nature. Therefore, I urge even young people to protect themselves from SARS-CoV-2 by getting vaccinated and wearing FFP2 masks.”


The new study was published in Nature Communications .




New evidence confirms link between long-duration COVID and chronic fatigue syndrome

(source:internet, reference only)

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