May 26, 2024

Strong Association Discovered between Long COVID and ME/CFS

In a recent study conducted by the University of Otago, researchers have found strong links between long COVID and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). This pilot study, published in Scientific Reports, provides evidence confirming the suspected relationship between the two conditions. The findings suggest that a coordinated treatment strategy could benefit individuals suffering from either long COVID or ME/CFS.

The study focused on comparing the immune cell proteins of individuals with long COVID and ME/CFS. The results revealed significant differences in immune system activity between six long COVID patients one year after a COVID-19 infection and a control group of five healthy individuals. The immune system activity of the long COVID patients resembled that of a group of nine diagnosed ME/CFS patients, who had been experiencing the condition for an average of 16 years. These findings indicate a chronic dysfunctional state within the immune system of both long COVID and ME/CFS patients.

By establishing this link between the two conditions, the accumulated knowledge and therapeutic opportunities from studying ME/CFS over the past 30 years can be applied to understanding and treating the estimated 100 million cases of long COVID worldwide. Additionally, the abundant resources allocated to long COVID research can also benefit the millions of “hidden” ME/CFS patients. These individuals have seen their numbers steadily increase over time due to the absence of a recovery from the illness.

This study aligns with the researchers’ previously published model, which explains the complex dysfunctional physiology associated with both ME/CFS and long COVID. The model suggests that susceptible individuals, based on their health history and genetic background, experience a chronic immune/inflammatory response to infection or stress. This response does not resolve quickly, leading to a cascade effect involving the brain, immune system, and central nervous system. Consequently, multiple neurological symptoms occur, and the brain’s regulation of body physiology is impaired.

It is important to note that long COVID resulting from the SARS-CoV-2 virus is just one example of ME/CFS. Similar cases have been observed in susceptible individuals affected by other endemic viruses, such as glandular fever, as well as smaller historical viral outbreaks like the SARS-CoV-1 virus in 2003. This highlights the significant number of individuals within the community who are now debilitated by disrupted immune systems, dysfunctional energy production, and disturbed brain regulation of overall physiology. These individuals face severe disruptions to their family lives, work, and ability to participate in their communities in the long term, emphasizing the need for support from all levels of society.

Based on the findings of this study, therapeutic targeting of immune response/inflammatory pathways could prove to be an effective approach. By addressing these underlying mechanisms, it may be possible to alleviate the symptoms and improve the quality of life for both long COVID and ME/CFS patients. Further research and collaboration among researchers, healthcare providers, and policymakers are crucial in developing comprehensive treatment strategies for these conditions.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it