The weekly research round-up includes recent publications about ME/CFS and Long Covid. We highlight the studies that have particularly caught our interest and follow these with the full list of publications together with their abstracts (summaries).
The ME Association maintains a comprehensive index of published research on ME/CFS and Long Covid that is free to use and updated weekly.
Audio Commentary from Katrina Pears
ME/CFS Research Published 5 – 11 April 2022
Research has certainly quietened down this week ready for Easter. There have been four new ME/CFS studies and sixteen studies on Long Covid.
None of the studies particularly caught our interest this week. We have highlighted two of the studies below:
Paper two (2) is on cognitive impairments, particularly the selective attention and stages of processing which lead to slower reaction times. The study used 67 ME/CFS patients and unusually used more healthy controls (126). The performance tasks in this study showed slower choice reactions probably due to motor skills responses. In choice reaction tests the time is measured for the onset of a stimulus and a response to it, the test can measure general alertness and motor speed.
However, there was little difference in the selective attention. Which is generally measured by instructing participants to join some sources of information, but to ignore others at the same time and then determine their effectiveness in doing so, for example; listening to a podcast and driving.
Most of the findings in this paper are not surprising showing cognitive difficulties in ME/CFS patients. I do find the results for the selective attention unusual, especially given brain fog and the difficulty with multi-stimuli in ME/CFS. This paper is also unusual due to the fact the research is conducted by one researcher only, published in a journal we don’t often see research in and there is no mention of the word ME (CFS is used throughout). The case definition used in this study was the Oxford Criteria which we do not commonly see in research studies, and has been previously criticised for diagnosing a large number of false positives with the criteria being less restrictive.
Paper three (3) is on the perspectives of 13 women who fell seriously ill with ME/CFS in childhood or adolescence. The research performed a narrative analysis which identified three themes:
- the active and meaningful life I used to live,
- gradually developing unhomeliness and feeling pushed toward the edge,
- left abandoned on the sidelines.
While this paper does not tell anyone who is living with ME/CFS anything new, the hope is that having this published information will help promote the message about the harm some medical advice can do, especially when it comes to activity. However, more needs to be done to promote this message. Furthermore, if you are interested in the full article, it has a re-aloud function which can freely be assessed.
You may also be interested in reading paper ten (10) in the Long Covid reference section, which is on what happens to people with long covid over a year. Dr Charles Shepherd has provided a comment on this study.
ME/CFS Research References and Abstracts
Arthur A. Mirin, Mary E. Dimmock & Leonard A. Jason
Fatigue: Biomedicine, Health & Behavior,
In this article, we update our earlier analyses of myalgic encephalomyelitis / chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) economic impact and its National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding versus disease burden, taking into account the anticipated new cases of ME/CFS resulting from COVID-19.
Prior to the COVID pandemic, we estimated a United States ME/CFS prevalence of 1.5 million and an annual economic impact of $36–51 billion.
Now, due to COVID and its resulting post-acute sequalae, we estimate total ME/CFS prevalence could rise to between five and nine million. This would incur an annual U.S. economic impact of $149 to $362 billion in medical expenses and lost income, exclusive of other costs, such as disability benefits, social services, and lost wages of caretakers.
NIH funding for ME/CFS research would need to expand from the current amount of $15 million per year to approximately $472–$600 million annually, up to a 40-fold increase, to be commensurate with that of similarly burdensome diseases.
World Journal of Pharmaceutical and Medical Research 8(4): 27-36
Background: One of the features of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is the reporting of cognitive impairment. Prior research has confirmed this using cognitive performance test batteries. Psychomotor slowing and episodic memory impairments appear to be robust, but little is known about selective attention or the stages of processing leading to slower reaction times. The present study addressed these gaps in the literature.
Methods: CFS patients were recruited from a health service clinic. Sixty-seven patients agreed to carry out cognitive tasks measuring aspects of focused attention and categoric search and the components (encoding and response organisation) of choice reaction time. They were compared with 126 healthy controls. As well as carrying out the performance tasks, the participants also completed symptom checklists and questionnaires measuring fatigue, mental health and cognitive failures.
Results: The questionnaires revealed the typical profile of symptoms of CFS patients. With regards to the objective performance tasks, the CFS patients had significantly slower choice reaction times on both tasks. This is likely to be due to slower motor responses as neither of the measures of stimulus encoding or response organisation showed differences between the groups. There was also little evidence for the groups differing in aspects of selective attention.
Conclusions: CFS patients report greater fatigue, more somatic symptoms, greater mental health issues and more cognitive difficulties. Objective testing revealed slower choice reaction times which probably reflect motor slowing. These measures can now be used to assess the efficacy of the management of CFS.
Krabbe SH, Mengshoel AM, Schrøder Bjorbækmo W, Sveen U, Groven KS.
Health Care Women Int. 2022 Apr 11:1-23. [Epub ahead of print.]
Thirteen women (16-30 years) storied their experiences about the process of falling severely ill with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome during childhood and adolescence.
We performed a narrative analysis informed by phenomenology which yielded three central themes: The active and meaningful life I used to live; gradually developing unhomeliness and feeling pushed toward the edge; and left abandoned on the sidelines.
Out of the incomprehensible and unpredictable emerges an understanding of the scale of their ordeal, along with advice that may have made it worse. This portrays a gradual developing uncertain, unhomely life situation with no outlooks for future recovery.
Chalder T, Smakowski A, Adamson J, Turner T.
Disabil Rehabil. 2022 Apr 12:1-2. [Epub ahead of print.]
No abstract available. Editor letter is behind a paywall.
Long-COVID Research References
- Long COVID and Long Chain Fatty Acids (LCFAs): Psychoneuroimmunity implication of omega-3 LCFAs in delayed consequences of COVID-19
- Osteopathy and physiotherapy compared to physiotherapy alone on fatigue in long COVID: Study protocol for a pragmatic randomized controlled superiority trial
- COVID-19 patients require multi-disciplinary rehabilitation approaches to address persisting symptom profiles and restore pre-COVID quality of life
- Small fiber neuropathy underlying dysautonomia in COVID-19 and in post-SARS-CoV-2 vaccination and long-COVID syndromes
- The use of amantadine in the prevention of progression and treatment of COVID-19 symptoms in patients infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (COV-PREVENT): Study rationale and design
- Post-COVID-19 syndrome: persistent neuroimaging changes and symptoms 9 months after initial infection
- Patient-Reported Symptoms and Sequelae 12 Months After COVID-19 in Hospitalized Adults: A Multicenter Long-Term Follow-Up Study
- Coronary microvascular health in patients with prior covid-19 infection: implications for long-covid syndrome
- Serological Biomarkers at Hospital Admission Are Not Related to Long-Term Post-COVID Fatigue and Dyspnea in COVID-19 Survivors
- A systematic review on physical function, activities of daily living and health-related quality of life in COVID-19 survivors
Dr Katrina Pears,
The ME Association.