This paper identifies similar biological changes in people with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and acute COVID-19. The authors suggest that these changes may lead to what has become known as Long COVID, which also shares similarities with ME/CFS. The authors review scientific studies and find that a redox imbalance, inflammation and problems with energy production at a cellular level may explain the shared symptoms between the two conditions. They argue that these cellular problems are linked and interact with each other. 

Redox imbalance is when free radicals (unstable oxygen molecules which cause damage to the cell) are produced more quickly than the body is able to remove them. This is also known as oxidative stress. This imbalance is found in both ME/CFS and acute COVID-19.  

This redox imbalance can lead to other changes in the body such as damage to mitochondria. Mitochondria are the energy producers of our cells. Viral infections are also known to cause problems with mitochondria, meaning that the cells don’t produce energy properly. This impaired energy production is found in both ME/CFS and acute COVID-19.    

Both redox imbalance and mitochondrial dysfunction can cause inflammation, which can become chronic. In turn, inflammation and mitochondrial dysfunction can trigger a redox imbalance, creating a vicious cycle and resulting in many of the symptoms seen in both acute COVID-19 and ME/CFS. 

Finally, the authors review treatments which have been trialled to address redox imbalance in COVID-19 patients. While some have produced some improvement, none have yet proven effective. It is likely that treatment will need to target several biological pathways. Research into ME/CFS and Long COVID through registries and biobanks offers hope for accurate and effective diagnosis and treatment.  

Read the full article here:

APaul, B et al,. Redox imbalance links COVID-19 and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome”,  PNAS, Vol 118, No, 34, 2021  

Emerge Australia is a national organisation providing education, advocacy, research and support services for Australians living with ME/CFS. With the medical and media spotlight currently on Long COVID it is finally bringing ME/CFS out of the shadows and highlighting how proper funding and new research is decades overdue.

Emerge Australia is determined to seize this moment to help transform the lives of the estimated 250,000 Australians living with ME/CFS and other post-viral fatigue conditions. Please support our campaign, by sharing it amongst your networks to keep the conversation flowing. And if you possibly can, please make a donation to help people with a disease strikingly similar to Long COVID, expect hardly anyone has heard of it. You can keep up to date with the campaign and Emerge Australia's work by subscribing to our monthly newsletter