Op-ed: Improving long COVID treatment by learning from the past

October 31, 2023 – Long COVID is not a new phenomenon, but rather another form of a previously known syndrome—and applying lessons learned from that syndrome could help with treatment, according to an op-ed in STAT co-authored by Michelle Williams, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Professor of Public Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In the September 14 op-ed and an October 18 podcast, also with STAT, Williams and Steven Phillips, a Global Virus Network board member and vice president for science and strategy at the COVID Collaborative, noted that long COVID has the same characteristics as myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Also known as post-infectious syndrome, ME/CFS is triggered by an acute infection and can lead to a wide range of long-term physical and cognitive impairments. The co-authors said that just like ME/CFS, research into the biological causes of long COVID has made little progress so far, and that more emphasis should be placed on improving patient care.

“Although much about ME/CFS is still not well-understood, decades of experience and research into this condition could be productively and rapidly applied to long COVID,” Phillips and Williams wrote. “That approach could help avoid missteps, focus investment priorities, ground societal expectations regarding what is achievable, and improve patient welfare dramatically.”

Read the STAT op-ed: Long Covid is a new name for an old syndrome

Listen to the STAT podcast: Listen: Why long Covid might predate the pandemic