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Long-term symptom severity and clinical biomarkers in post-COVID-19/chronic fatigue syndrome: results from a prospective observational cohort

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Item Type:Article
Title:Long-term symptom severity and clinical biomarkers in post-COVID-19/chronic fatigue syndrome: results from a prospective observational cohort
Creators Name:Legler, F. and Meyer-Arndt, L. and Mödl, L. and Kedor, C. and Freitag, H. and Stein, E. and Hoppmann, U. and Rust, R. and Wittke, K. and Siebert, N. and Behrens, J. and Thiel, A. and Konietschke, F. and Paul, F. and Scheibenbogen, C. and Bellmann-Strobl, J.
Abstract:BACKGROUND: Post-COVID-19 syndrome (PCS) is characterised by a wide range of symptoms, primarily fatigue and exertion intolerance. While disease courses in the early months post-infection have been well-described, the long-term health consequences for patients with PCS with disabling fatigue remain unclear. METHODS: In this prospective observational cohort study, we evaluated symptom severity and various biomarkers, including hand grip strength (HGS), cardiovascular function, and laboratory parameters, in 106 patients with PCS with moderate to severe fatigue and exertion intolerance at three time points after infection (3–8, 9–16, and 17–20 months). The study was conducted at the Charité’s Fatigue Centre and the Charité’s outpatient clinic for neuroimmunology at Berlin, Germany from July 16, 2020, to February 18, 2022. A subset of patients (PCS-ME/CFS) met the diagnostic criteria for myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome according to the Canadian Consensus Criteria (CCC). The aim was to determine differences in the disease course between the two patient groups (i.e., PCS vs PCS-ME/CFS) and identify correlating biomarkers. FINDINGS: Patients with PCS-ME/CFS reported persistently high severity of most symptoms up to 20 months after infection, while patients with PCS showed overall health improvement. Although fatigue and post-exertional malaise (PEM), hallmarks of post-infectious fatigue syndromes, were still evident in both groups, they remained more pronounced in PCS-ME/CFS. Inflammatory biomarkers decreased in both groups, but not antinuclear antibodies. Lower HGS at onset correlated with symptom persistence, particularly in patients with PCS-ME/CFS. INTERPRETATION: Our findings suggest that PCS can persist beyond 20 months post-infection and encompass the full scope of post-infectious ME/CFS as defined by the CCC. Sub-classifying patients with PCS based on the CCC can assist in the management and monitoring of patients with PCS-ME/CFS due to their persistently higher symptom severity.
Keywords:Post-COVID-19 Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME-CFS), Post-Exertional Malaise (PEM), Exertion Intolerance, Canadian Consensus Criteria, Hand Grip Strength
Publisher:Elsevier / Lancet
Page Range:102146
Date:19 August 2023
Official Publication:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eclinm.2023.102146
PubMed:View item in PubMed

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