New study: 65 million suffer from Long Covid

Status: 01/23/2023 04:59

According to a new study, at least ten percent of all infected people struggle with the long-term effects of a corona infection. The authors criticize: Diagnostic and treatment options are insufficient.

The spectrum of symptoms is varied – the severity varies: After a corona infection, there can be longer-lasting symptoms, summarized under the term Long Covid. Long Covid tracks at least 10% of Covid infections, according to a new review study in the journal Nature Reviews Microbiology. This means that around 65 million people worldwide are now suffering from the late effects of corona.

In Germany alone, it is assumed that at least one million people are affected. For their specialist article, the researchers assessed the current status of studies on the subject. They also included the results of decades of research into diseases such as myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

Identified more than 200 disease symptoms

The term Long Covid refers to all symptoms that appear four weeks after corona disease or are still present. Fatigue and exhaustion, shortness of breath, concentration and memory problems or muscle weakness: these are just some of the possible symptoms. In the meantime, more than 200 symptoms, often of varying severity, have been identified, according to the “Nature” study.

These can affect a number of organ systems: from the heart and lungs, to the stomach and intestines, to the sexual organs and blood vessels. Corona viruses can attack the “critical infrastructure” of our body and cause long-term damage. Moreover, the first research results show that the risk of consequential damage does not decrease even after the second and third infection.

Most long-time Covid patients recover after a few weeks or months. However, Carmen Scheibenbogen, head of the Fatigue Center at Charité Berlin, says she knows from her own experience that many of those affected are sometimes so seriously ill that they are unable to work and some are bedridden. . For some, Long Covid can turn into a permanent disease, or even worse: for example, the neuroimmunological disease ME/CFS.

ME/CFS: dizziness, muscle pain, accident

According to the disc arch, it is a complex and very debilitating disease. Even before the corona pandemic, many people would have suffered from it. The trigger can therefore not only be a Covid infection, but also an infection with the Epstein-Barr virus or an influenza pathogen.

Such a prior infection initially disrupts the energy metabolism of body cells. The mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cells, are altered. It deprives the body of energy. He then looks for other ways to provide power, but they are not as efficient. Significant cognitive impairment, severe pain, trouble sleeping, or extreme feeling of weakness are possible symptoms of ME/CFS. So far, the disease cannot be treated causally. Doctors can, however, relieve symptoms.

Effect of vaccines: No clear study situation

The new “Nature” study shows that such secondary symptoms can occur after infection, even despite vaccination against Covid. However, the studies here do not lead to a clear result: A survey therefore finds no significant difference in the development of Long Covid in vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Other research, on the other hand, puts the reduced risk of long Covid thanks to vaccination at 15 to 41%.

Affected people call for better care structures

Mia Diekow from the “Long COVID Germany” initiative for those affected fell ill with Corona almost three years ago and has not really recovered since then. She speaks of an unsustainable situation. “We urgently need better care structures. There are also patients who cannot get out of bed.” The clinical picture of ME/CFS has been known for a long time. But it has never been studied enough.

In many areas, research is still in its infancy, both in terms of causes and treatment options for Long Covid. The Charité immunologist disc arch requires more capacity to be able to make diagnoses and treat patients. “We need specialists who know these clinical pictures. And we urgently need therapeutic studies with drugs that can cure the disease.”

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