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Long COVID symptoms identical to chronic fatigue syndrome

A multidisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Alberta has embarked on a groundbreaking study to unravel the mysteries of long COVID and identify potential treatments.

Led by immunologists, virologists, rheumatologists, and metabolomics experts, the team has recently published research shedding light on the debilitating symptoms experienced by individuals with long COVID, also known as post-COVID-19 condition. Their findings suggest that nearly 70 percent of those affected are female, facing symptoms akin to chronic fatigue syndrome, now referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

Jan Willem Cohen Tervaert

Jan Willem Cohen Tervaert

Shokrollah Elahi

Long COVID symptoms chronic fatigue syndrome

Nearly 70 percent of those affected by long COVID are women.
Photo by Niklas Hamann

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The study highlights amino acid deficiencies observed in blood samples of long COVID patients, hinting at the possibility of using readily available supplements as a therapeutic approach.

Statistics Canada data indicates that by June 2023, one in nine Canadians had experienced post-COVID-19 condition, with as many as 60 percent of patients enduring severe symptoms resembling chronic fatigue syndrome even a year after their initial infection.

Rheumatologist and clinical immunologist Jan Willem Cohen Tervaert, professor of medicine at the University of Alberta, said that long COVID shares a common pathway with ME/CFS, leading to fatigue, brain fog, post-exertional malaise, widespread pain, and non-refreshing sleep.

Immunologist Shokrollah Elahi, a professor in the School of Dentistry and principal investigator on the study, explains that while women may have a stronger immune response initially, it can lead to collateral damage later on, contributing to the higher prevalence of long COVID symptoms among females.

For their study, the researchers conducted clinical examinations and analyzed blood samples from 75 individuals, including those with persistent long COVID symptoms, recovered patients, and healthy controls. Metabolomic analysis at Canada’s Metabolomics Innovation Centre revealed persistent abnormalities in long COVID patients, including mitochondrial dysfunction, chronic systemic inflammation, and amino acid deficiencies associated with impaired brain function.

Cohen Tervaert and Elahi aim to further investigate these findings in animal models and explore the potential of supplements, such as sarcosine, in treating long COVID patients. Elahi is also focused on upcoming research utilizing RNA sequencing to identify genetic factors contributing to long COVID.

The researchers hope their work will not only improve understanding and treatment of long COVID but also shed light on the broader issue of ME/CFS, advocating for more research and recognition of the disease’s debilitating impact on patients’ lives.

| Staff

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