• In some people, the aftermath of acute COVID-19 is a lingering illness with fatigue and cognitive defects, known as post-COVID-19 syndrome or “long COVID”.
• Post-COVID-19 syndrome is similar to post-infectious fatigue syndromes triggered by other infectious agents, and to myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), a condition that patients often report is preceded by an infectious-like illness.
• ME/CFS is associated with underlying abnormalities of the central and autonomic nervous system, immune dysregulation, disordered energy metabolism and redox imbalance. It is currently unclear if the same abnormalities will be identified in post-COVID-19 syndrome.
• The US and other developed nations have committed considerable support for research on post-COVID illnesses.
An illness like ME/CFS has been described in the medical literature for several hundred years. Yet, when interest in the illness resurfaced in the mid-1980s, you could not find any mention of it in the major textbooks of medicine.
There were several reasons for this. First, past medical publications described the symptoms of the illness but did not report underlying biological abnormalities that might be causing those symptoms. Some doctors concluded that if no underlying biological abnormalities had been found, that the illness probably was not “real”.
Furthermore, when doctors seeing patients with the symptoms of ME/CFS ordered the “standard” laboratory tests in the mid-1980s, the “standard” test results typically were normal.
Unfortunately, upon receiving the normal test results some doctors told their patients that “there is nothing wrong with you.” That was one possible conclusion. Another possible conclusion that those doctors might have considered, but did not, was that they were ordering the wrong tests. Indeed, other tests available to them even in the mid-1980s did find abnormalities in many people with ME/CFS1.
Now, in the 21st century, we have state-of-the-art technologies for identifying underlying biological abnormalities that were unavailable (and even unimaginable) in the mid-1980s. Most of the testing being performed by the Columbia Center for Solutions for ME/CFS employs these newer technologies.