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Byron Shire
February 2, 2023

Long COVID may deal “lifelong disability” if no action taken says new research

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Brought to you by Cosmos Magazine and The Echo

Review finds long COVID affects major systems similar to chronic fatigue syndrome, POTS and other disorders.

New research suggests at last 65 million people around the world are estimated to have long COVID.

It also suggests at least 1 in 10 individuals infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 will go on to have long COVID symptoms, with the highest percentage of cases in people between 36 and 50 years.

The findings were assembled by a team of US-based researchers, overseen by esteemed American cardiologist Eric Topol, from a review of over 200 peer reviewed studies into long COVID.

They concluded “a significant proportion of individuals with long COVID may have lifelong disabilities if no action is taken”.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton described the paper as an “incredibly important analysis on LongCOVID (sic) research.”

Long COVID, they found, is an illness characterised by a range of conditions including neurological effects and impacts to major organs and complex bodily systems.

The pulmonary (heart), respiratory, immune, gastrointestinal, neurological, urinary, endocrine, reproductive systems were all found to be impacted by long COVID.

They also found risk of pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lung), cardiac arrest, heart failure, stroke, diabetes and death were increased relative to study control groups.

And among the issues the studies described, the overlapping nature of long COVID with other major multi-system disorders like mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) complicates diagnosis and management.

Little difference between long COVID, CFS, POTS

University of Adelaide researcher Marie-Claire Seely is finalising a year-long study looking at dysautonomia and POTS in long COVID patients. Her findings are consistent with other studies pointing to some post-COVID symptoms as being indistinguishable from better-known disorders.

“In our cohort around 80% of those we saw with long COVID met the criteria on the day we tested them, for POTS… so they all had autonomic dysfunction,” Seely told Cosmos.

The autonomic nervous system is responsible for managing the body’s involuntary process, including blood pressure, heart rate, respiration and digestion.

“When we compared them with healthy controls, they were as disabled as our [non-long COVID] POTS patients,” she says.

“In fact, when we compared them with our POTS patients, we couldn’t tell the difference, so they present virtually identically in terms of their gender makeup.”

That gender makeup is common across several autoimmune disorders triggered by viral infection, including multiple sclerosis: around 80-90% of diagnosed cases are female, and symptoms include fatigue, brain fog, pain, and gastrointestinal problems which are also described by long COVID patients.

“Essentially these are very similar disorders, if not the same,” Seeley says.

Long COVID symptoms from mild cases resolve in a year

While the Nature study warns the dearth of infrastructure to support long COVID diagnosis and management requires governments to fund increasing research and trials into this and other related illnesses, there is suggestion in other new research pointing to quick resolutions for many patients.

Quick – in this case – is relative: within a year according to a study of over one million infectees, published in the BMJ by researchers from the Israeli KI Research Institute.

They found that mild COVID-19 patients have a low risk of post-viral symptoms. Those that do appear to have symptoms resolve within 12 months.

However the Nature study authors express a view that severe cases of long COVID are more likely to experience debilitating effects to key bodily systems, which have indefinite resolution periods.

“We need research that builds on existing knowledge and is inclusive of the patient experience, training and education for the health-care and research workforce, a public communication campaign, and robust policies and funding to support research and care in long COVID,” they say.


This article was originally published on Cosmos Magazine and was written by Matthew Agius. Matthew Agius is a science writer for Cosmos Magazine.


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6 COMMENTS

  1. Unvaccinated here and no Covid issues whatsoever. Vaccinated friends on the other hand are rushing off to hospital or taking their kids to hospital.

    • Same here. I had one unvaxxed friend test positive, was news to him, got him a few days off work to spend with his kid. My Mother on the other now has sudden unexplained heart damage out of the blue, and three of my neighbours are dying of sudden onset chronic diseases.

  2. ET, your body, your right.
    But we’ve read of these stories before, of individuals with initial glorification of being unvaccinated and then a later update…from the ICU as they await their final end after becoming infected with Coivid.
    ET, being vaccinated doesn’t confer immunity but it gives a level of protection from contracting severe disease if you should become infected.

    • Remember how if you were late for any jab you were called unvaxxed? Remember how, for the first 14 days after any jab, you were considered unvaxxed? The majority of the population is currently labeled unvaxxed.

    • Joachim, have you not read and understood that +99% of the population will survive covid just fine without being vaccinated?
      Facts matter.

      You may see the media hype on the odd occurrence, but please do your best to not let fear affect your ability to think clearly. I acknowledge it was difficult for all of us when constant doom and gloom was being broadcast 24/7.

      For most under 50, the now known risks of adverse reactions from the vaccine are not justifying vaccination any longer. You now need a medical certificate in the UK if you are under 50, noting your vulnerabilities, to justify further vaccination.

      Director of CDC vaccine task force Tom Shimabukuro in the USA admitted this week “people experiencing long lasting health problems following covid vaccination”
      Heart issues, strokes, neurological problems, guilain barre syndrome….the list of adverse reactions (that Pfizer wanted hidden for 75yrs) is very long.

      Please keep up.

      • Pfizer made no attempt to hide adverse reaction documentation. The FDA owned and controlled 330,000 pages you refer to and the judge never ordered their release. The FDA were releasing the documents well before the court case.
        Please keep up.

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