Dunedin researchers reveal strong link between long COVID and chronic fatigue syndrome

A group of Dunedin researchers have found a strong link between long COVID and chronic fatigue syndrome.  

They say the two could be managed with a coordinated strategy. 

There are an estimated 100 million cases of long COVID around the world. But right now, there is no definitive treatment for it.  

"Patients are trying prescribed drugs, nutriceuticals, behavioural therapies, relaxation therapies, some of them may be very helpful but it's being done very chaotically," Otago University Emeritus Professor and lead author Warren Tate told Newshub. 

A new pilot study that has found a strong link between long COVID and chronic fatigue syndrome could change that.  

"They need to be regarded like diabetes patients or cancer patients and get the kind of support that they get," Tate added. 

By isolating proteins from the immune cells of patients with long COVID, the study found their immune system reflected a chronic dysfunctional state - similar to chronic fatigue syndrome - a group Tate calls "the missing millions". 

"Now long COVID has come along, there's a chance for them to be recognised and given support," he said. 

Researchers say the two patient groups could benefit from a coordinated approach. 

Tate is calling for national guidelines for doctors to follow, as well as specialist clinics for both groups of patients.  

As each new wave of COVID sweeps the globe, there will be more cases of long COVID to treat.  

"We just need to improve our game on all of this so these patients can be dealt with just like other major debilitating diseases in the community."

For long COVID sufferers, the research is validating.  

"It helps you to make you not feel like you're going bonkers and that's really important part of the journey for a patient," research candidate Jenene Crossan told Newshub.  

Crossan has been working with Tate for three-and-a-half years and says she's appreciative of his work. 

"The most important thing for me with this research, is the validation it provides," she told Newshub. 

"Patients are often the people who are left behind." 

It's a journey that, up until now, has been lacking direction.