Source: Johns Hopkins University
Date: August 26, 2021
For many, long COVID looks a lot like chronic fatigue
A team of researchers, including two from Johns Hopkins Medicine, have
published a review article highlighting similarities between certain
lingering symptoms following COVID-19 illness-a condition called 'long
COVID'-and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS),
a debilitating, complex disorder previously known as chronic fatigue
The researchers say the symptoms shared by the two conditions may
involve a biological response that goes haywire when the body encounters
certain infections or other environmental hazards. 'The body's response
to infection and injury is complex and covers all body systems,' says
lead author Bindu Paul, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology and
molecular sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
'When that response is in disarray-even just one aspect of it-it can
cause feelings of being tired, brain fog, pain and other symptoms.'
In their review, published Aug. 16, 2021, in the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences, Paul and her co-authors highlight the
evidence seen in both acute COVID and ME/CFS of various underlying
biological disorders. In particular, the researchers suggest a central
role for the way cells behave when too many oxygen molecules pile up in
a cell-a process called oxidative stress or redox imbalance. The team
describes how redox imbalance may be connected to the inflammation and
disorders of metabolism that are found in the two diseases.
Paul has previously studied the role of oxidative stress in conditions
such as Huntington's disease, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's
As of August 2021, approximately 36 million Americans have been
diagnosed with COVID-19. 'We do not yet know how many of these patients
will experience long COVID, but it's estimated that at least 7%
experience extended symptoms,' says co-author Anthony Komaroff, M.D.,
the Steven P. Simcox, Patrick A. Clifford and James H. Higby
Distinguished Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
The expert team urges that some of the recent National Institutes of
Health funding assigned to study the long-term health effects of
COVID-19 be used to investigate both long COVID and ME/CFS. Those
studies, they believe, could shed light on other diseases characterized
by oxidative stress, inflammation and metabolic disorders.
ME/CFS is a complex condition affecting 1 million to 2.5 million people
in the United States. It is characterized by a cluster of symptoms,
including severe and debilitating fatigue, disrupted and unrefreshing
sleep, difficulty thinking (commonly called 'brain fog'), abnormalities
of the autonomic nervous system and post-exertional malaise-a flare-up
of multiple symptoms following physical or cognitive exertion.
The team hopes that this scientific review will spur and help focus
research on the molecular basis of both long COVID and ME/CFS.
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