As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, an increasing number of people suffer from serious long-term health conditions following a COVID infection; referred to as Long COVID. It is imperitive that work is undertaken to understand, diagnose, and manage the health ramifications, to improve the outcomes for patients and reduce excess burden on the health system.

There is considerable overlap in the clinical presentation of ME/CFS and Long COVID, although the mechanism of both diseases are unknown. Recent advancements provide an opportunity to explore underlying mechanisms of ME/CFS which may provide insight into the manifestation of Long COVID.The potential benefits in the diagnosis and treatment of Long COVID warrant further investigation.



ME/CFS is a severe multifactorial condition of unknown cause, however, there is abundance of evidence reporting post-infectious onset of ME/CFS (approximately 60% of cases) and recently SARS-CoV-2 has received attention as one of these potential infectious triggers. Reports of severe fatigue and other systemic symptoms three months post SARS-CoV-2 infection has been termed Post COVID-19 Condition by the World Health Organization, commonly denoted as Long COVID. Emerging research has reported on the significant overlap between ME/CFS and Long COVID, including neurocognitive, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, metabolic and immunological manifestations.  To date, no laboratory-based research has validated the potential relationship between ME/CFS and Long COVID beyond anecdotal data.

Researchers at the National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases (NCNED) have confirmed that ME/CFS is potentially a channelopathy. A channelopathy describes a disease that results in dysfunction of ion channels which allows passage of ions in cells. Through a collaborative and innovative approach, the NCNED developed a protocol to investigate TRP ion channel dysfunctions in immune cells isolated from patients, specifically natural killer (NK) cells. Given immune disturbances are a key feature in both ME/CFS and Long COVID, NK cells provide a viable and readily accessible model for research into the pathomechanism.

Transient receptor potential (TRP) channels are a family of ion channels also known as “threat” or “stress” receptors, that are vulnerable to trauma and infection. Therefore, this provides rationale for TRP channels as an investigative marker for Long COVID. Fortunately, increased public interest in Long COVID and ME/CFS may contribute to research and development of treatment strategies in ME/CFS. Further, given the overlap between ME/CFS, Long COVID and post viral fatigue syndromes, it is important to discover a formal diagnostic test for ME/CFS and establish a clinical case definition for Long COVID to avoid misdiagnosis. Future research aims to investigate TRP ion channel dysfunction in ME/CFS and Long COVID.


For more on this story:

Understanding the intricacies of ion channels in ME/chronic fatigue syndome (Page 178)

Radio broadcast: Nightlife: featuring the effects of long covid

News article: Researchers probe 'astounding' links between long-COVID and chronic fatigue syndrome

Analysis of post COVID-19 condition and its overlap with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome


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