Can COVID-19 Morph into Other Serious Health Issues?


A team at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health is partnering with a chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) organization to study COVID-19 and CFS.

For the condition previously called chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and now referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), people suffering from the condition are marked by overwhelming fatigue as well as potentially other multi-system conditions that can be chronic in nature. The cause of ME is not truly understood and there are no definitive tests to diagnose it or therapies to treat it.

Mady Hornig, MA, MD, is an associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, and she had COVID-19 earlier this year. She has had a continuation of symptoms and health issues several months after initially having a fever, and has been characterized as being a COVID-19 long-hauler.

These subset of patients report having a number of health problems after their initial bout with COVID-19 including a loss of taste and smell, severe fatigue, or neurological issues.

As with other viruses, there is a long-term concern with COVID-19 that some lingering health effects post virus might morph into more serious conditions. For example, Post Ebola Syndrome illustrates that some people who beat the virus end up having other health issues including eye problems up to blindness, neurological issues, as well as muscular and joint pain. The syndrome can be quite debilitating to the point of leaving people unable to work.

Hornig and her team have partnered with Solve ME, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating the discovery of treatments, expanding funding for cure research, and engaging the ME/CFS community in research, advocacy, and patient support.

Solve ME has developed a tracker to help report both ME and COVID-19 cases.The Hornig team is looking to collect clinical data and biological samples to further understand ME as well as COVID-19 in the participant population.

For Hornig and her team they are going to study further areas related to chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms and the overlap with the long-hauler phenomenon. She notes that 10% to 12% of those who suffer infectious mononucleosis, for example, get diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.

In the third segment of an interview with Contagion®, Hornig offers a glimpse about the 3 potential outcomes they are looking to gain from these studies. 

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