Chronic fatigue syndrome and long-COVID similarities found

In what is claimed to be ground-breaking research, Queensland researchers have identified similar changes in brain structure among people who have long-COVID and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Researchers compared patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, long-COVID and people with neither condition, and discovered similarities in brain stem size for those with long-COVID or chronic fatigue.

Griffith University scientists used a high-powered magnetic resonance imaging scanner to compare the brains of 28 adults.

Eight had long-COVID, 10 people had been diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and 10 were healthy volunteers.

The researchers, from Griffith’s National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases, found the brainstem was significantly larger in long-COVID patients and those with ME/CFS compared to people who had never been diagnosed with either ailment.

“Structural changes in the brain stem of ME/CFS and long-COVID patients could result in severe and varied deficits in brain function,” they wrote in a study published in the journal, Frontiers in Neuroscience.

“The symptom overlap between ME/CFS and long-COVID patients is consistent with our current findings of similar abnormalities in the brainstem.”

Lead researcher Kiran Thapaliya said brain stem similarities in people with long-COVID and ME/CFS patients may explain why they exhibited common core symptoms, such as brain fog, fatigue, pain and breathing difficulties.

Dr Thapaliya, a Griffith University research fellow, said the research team is recruiting more people to continue to investigate the findings of their pilot study in a larger number of patients with long-COVID and ME/CFS. 

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