People with Long COVID in Australia have poor health outcomes that are comparable with another emerging disease known as myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), new Griffith University research has discovered.

PhD student Breanna Weigel

PhD student Breanna Weigel from Griffith’s National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases (NCNED) will be presenting the findings in Singapore this month at the International Public Health Conference.

Ms Weigel said the study found people with Long COVID have the same health outcomes as ME/CFS over a 12-month period.

“Quality of life and disability scores were significantly poorer for both Long COVID and ME/CFS when compared with healthy people,” she said.

“However, there were no differences between ME/CFS and Long COVID groups which indicates considerable reductions in functional capacity and health and well-being among people living with these illnesses.”

The research found only a few differences in more than 25 different symptoms between Long COVID and ME/CFS participants.

Importantly, both ME/CFS and Long COVID groups had comparable prevalence with the severity of their illness.

Both groups over time had the same symptom presentation of significantly impaired cognition, mobility, bodily pain, and post-exertional malaise (PEM) which means symptoms get worse after physical or mental activity.

PEM is very disabling and causes changes in symptoms and a further reduction in ability to do everyday activities.

Director of the NCNED, Professor Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik, said: “This research highlighted the continued impact of Long COVID on peoples’ lives, which is especially poignant as today we recognise International Long COVID Awareness Day.”

“The research forms one of many Long COVID investigations and clinical trials being undertaken at the national centre where it is hoped these findings will provide pathways for those with Long COVID.

“We are uniquely positioned nationally as we are the only centre to undertake scientific laboratory and MRI research in Long COVID and ME/CFS in tandem, and monitor the health and economic impact of the patients.

“At the national centre we also undertake clinical trials and contribute to best practice guidelines such as the recently published guidelines in the British Medical Journal for ME.”

Dr Natalie Eaton-Fitch, who was an undergraduate student at Griffith University and is now an emerging researcher at the NCNED said: “Researchers are very fortunate to have wonderful opportunities at all stages of their careers and to know research can make a real-world difference for people.”

Ms Weigel’s work builds upon the Issues Brief she did in collaboration with the Deeble Institute that reported how patient experiences can guide the development of Long COVID health policy.

3: Good Health and Well-being
UN Sustainable Development Goals 3: Good Health and Well-being