Thursday, October 27, 2022

ME/CFS and Long-COVID New Research Summary

It's been a long time since I wrote one of these research updates, but I've got about 20 open tabs in my browser with exciting studies on ME/CFS and long-COVID that I want to share with you! 

The research into myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome has been encouraging for many years, as scientists figure out more and more pieces of the puzzle. However, the high incidence of long-COVID and its connection to ME/CFS has resulted in an enormous increase in both research interest and funding. Expect to see a whole lot more coming soon!

In the meantime, here are some quick overviews (with links to more details) of research into ME/CFS and long-COVID that I found interesting and encouraging:

Orthostatic Intolerance:

This article, Why the 10-Minute NASA Lean Test?, by Dr. Lucinda Bateman, one of the top ME/CFS clinicians in the world, describes a series of studies her clinic has done in the past few years on Orthostatic Intolerance (OI) in ME/CFS patients. Her summary (at the link) is easy to understand and fascinating. As previous studies had indicated, ME/CFS and long-COVID patients who definitely had OI did not always meet the official criteria during the standing/lean test. Her team pointed out, though, that even ignoring the numbers, it was clear these patients did have OI from their symptoms and reactions during the test. They also discovered a new measure (the ratio of pulse pressure to systolic blood pressure) that was more accurate in identifying OI in the ME/CFS and long-COVID patients.The differences between newer patients and those of us who've had it longer are interesting, too.

When I researched OI for the two articles I wrote for the ProHealth website on the topic, I came across a study showing that the standing test is still more accurate than a tilt table test (and far less expensive and easier to get done), but as I explain in the article, you may need do the standing test multiple times to get accurate results and your doctor should always take into account your symptoms while standing and not just the numbers. The original articles have been taken down (along with all articles on specific diseases), but you can read copies I made here: Part 1 - Diagnosing Orthostatic Intolerance in ME/CFS, and Part 2 - Treating Orthostatic Intolerance in ME/CFS. I know the links don't work in these articles, but they both still contain scientific references at the bottom that your doctor can look up for more information, so they're ideal to print and share with your medical team.


Identifying Genes in ME/CFS:

1. It has long been known that ME/CFS has both infectious and genetic roots, proven through several studies of families. More than a decade ago, I participated in a study to identify the exact genes involved in ME/CFS, but that study ended when it lost funding. Finally now, many different research organizations are digging back into that problem--with newer technology--and trying to identify the genes that make someone more susceptible to ME/CFS.

In his blog/newsletter, ME/CFS Research Review, Simon McGrath reports, New Study Links 14 Genes to ME/CFS. This study has not yet been published but has been submitted to a scientific journal and is being considered for publication. It used existing genetic data from the UK BioBank and analyzed it in a new way to identify 14 genes that seem to be linked to ME/CFS, paving the way for a possible way to identify patient sub-groups. 

Much of the article at that link is quite technical (far too much in the weeds for me!), but if you scroll down to the bottom, the heading What Do the 14 Genes Do and Can They Explain ME?, it's pretty interesting and easy to understand, highlighting areas of autoimmunity, energy metabolism, sleep, and infection. You might also be interested in the two sub-headings before that: Success with Other Illnesses and Issues with the UK Bio Bank Sample.

 2. Another genetic study of ME/CFS and long-COVID was just published. It is a systemic review of ALL genetic studies published to date on ME/CFS and long-COVID (that includes 23 ME/CFS studies and 71 long-COVID studies, which shows you how long-COVID is affecting the state of research!). You can read a summary (and further down the page, an abstract) of this study in the ME Association's weekly Research Round-Up, October 4-10 (there's also an audio option at the link if you prefer to listen). 

These kinds of review studies can be very helpful in pulling data together. This review found a range of common genes affecting both ME/CFS and long-COVID, including one involved in controlling blood pressure and two involved with immune function. The Research Round-up at that link also includes brief summaries of studies of long-COVID dealing with immune function, potential causes, MCAS, and a potential biomarker.

That's all I have the energy for writing about today--and probably all you have the energy to read, as well! I will try to get back to more frequent updates, both to stay up-to-date and to keep my browser from getting so cluttered!

If you are interested in current research of ME/CFS and long-COVID, I highly recommend checking out the ME Association's weekly Research Round-Up. I linked to the Oct. 4-10 summary up above, and you can see their October 11-17 summary, which includes 7 new studies on ME/CFS and 15 new studies on long-COVID.

I've also been doing some freelance writing, helping Open Medicine Foundation to write patient/layperson summaries of some of their new research projects. Wow, there is some really exciting research coming up! They'll be sharing those in November, and as soon as they're published, I'll share them here with you, too.

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