BBC Science: Nearly half of all Long Covid patients may have ME/CFS

December 2, 2021


“Until now, experts haven’t been able to confidently say whether ME/CFS is a part of long COVID. But a new study, by researchers at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, has tested 41 patients against ME/CFS diagnostic criteria.

“Of the group, 46 per cent had four or more symptoms of ME/CFS and had experienced a substantial impact to their lives as a result of fatigue. A further 13 long COVID patients met the criteria but were excluded on account of having a large BMI or a cardiac disease.

“Nearly all of the patients (36 of 41) showed abnormal breathing – rapid, shallow breathing similar to that of people with asthma – and a majority had chronic hyperventilation after the exercise test.

“Many of these patients reported shortness of breath, and the cardiopulmonary exercise test is often used to determine its underlying cause,” explained Dr Donna Mancini, professor in the department of cardiology and lead author of the study.

“Mancini said there could be several subsets of patients with long COVID, including those who have ME/CFS-like symptoms.”

MEA comment

“This is a small pilot study but one that is very interesting and continues to attract media attention. It seems to confirm what has been suspected for some time and it was good to see the use of CPET exercise testing and assessment of Long Covid patients for ME/CFS.

“However, it would have been better had patients been tested using CPET over several days to see if post-exertional malaise was also an issue – this being a key symptom of ME/CFS.

“As with all research into Long Covid, we think it would be helpful if people with non-Covid-related ME/CFS were included for comparison purposes particularly when investigating the impact of these conditions on functional ability and in studies that examine biomedical abnormalities that might be causing or perpetuating these conditions.

“We look forward to more research of a similar nature that might help determine more effective diagnostic methods and treatments for people who experience these post-viral fatigue syndromes.”

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