Long COVID research results

30 plus years

Sep 15, 2023
Today there was an NPR article, "A discovery in the muscles of Long COVID patients may explain exercise troubles." It was very involved with scientific terms and such, but the fact that they even said their findings may just benefit people with ME/CFS was so promising!! They did biopsies of muscles and found the cells themselves were distorted and starved for oxygen.
Very interesting read, if you can find it!
Yes, I read that article. Highly recommend it.
I'll forward it to a friend of mine with Fibro, makes me wonder how we are affected.
This is exactly how it feels for me, too, with both exhaustion from fibro and from the post vac type of Long Covid I have.
And seems to confirm what I've long suspected, no surprise to me.

I like reading this stuff put in context by Cort Johnson on healthrising (he sent it in his newsletter on Tuesday).
Two interesting comments of his:
"A small but stunning Dutch study" and "A similar ME/CFS muscle study is underway."

My summary of Cort Johnsons' explanations of what the researchers found, with less scientific terms:
  • 25 Long CoV vs. 24 recovered people (with same virus levels). Muscle biopsies before and after exercise.
  • Lungs: "problems moving air in and out", so too low CO2 in blood and too little O2 for muscles (similar in ME/CFS).
  • Perhaps slightly thinner muscle blood vessels.
  • More "fast-twitch" muscle fibres that don't need oxygen ("anaerobic") and are good for short spurts, but not for endurance, they can't produce as much energy, but leave behind lactate causing "muscle soreness".
  • Thinner fatigue-resistant muscles fibres in females (he doesn't go into this though, cos the study doesn't either).
  • Less of an enzyme (SDH) in the energy part of each cell (mitochondrion) as opposed to more in recovered people.
  • Less substances for the energy production type that uses oxygen, even at rest, e.g. citric acid and creatine.
  • Microclots (amyloids) aren't clotting blood vessel, but the amounts increase, compared to pre-CoV/healthy.
  • More wasting or dead muscle fibres after exercise in 36%! (autoimmune response? But why? Same virus levels in both groups mean it is not the virus! Step counts showed it wasn't from de-conditioning). Likely means exercise is bad.
  • All with Long Covid had this post exertional malaise, but the patterns varied with the same end - likely same in ME/CFS.
  • For what we can do, Cort says "exercise does not fix the problem", only after something else has helped, and
  • Some people with ME/CFS get help from creatine, and it's been recommended for Long Covid too.
If this small study and similar ME/CFS ones before can further be confirmed, the main points I assume are - ME/CFS post exertional malaise and perhaps even fibro fatigue might also come from:
  • too little oxygen somehow decimating endurance and causing short spurt muscles to increase, to compensate.
  • certain energy production mechanisms are askew,
  • decreasing usable muscle fibre by forcing exercise, this is "tissue damage", "severe exercise-induced muscle damage".
  • possibly microclots causing problems somewhere, even if they didn't stop blood flow.
For Long Covid incl. post vac: It isn't the lingering of the virus / spike protein, as the levels were similar in both groups.

My main questions:
  • How come oxygen in muscle cells was not found reduced, but oxygen wasn't being used/taken into muscles properly? (that seems one of the questions for the researchers too).
  • What about the 64% where wasting/dead muscle fibres wasn't found? Reading the study however answers that 36% got dead muscle fibre alone from exercise (10% before), whilst 80% got wasting muscle fibre (50% before) (necrosis vs. atrophy).
Creatine I've had sitting on my desk for over a year, maybe time to use it. If the HCl doesn't work well, praps the malate form.

Interesting offshoot: My creatine kinase increased in 2022 to over the max., which means muscles are injured from exertion, too little oxygen or a fall. But this study didn't show increased creatine kinase.

Edit: Cort has now put the 80% atrophy into the article, too.
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It's an interesting article.
Of course, a study of fewer than 50 people really doesn't prove anything. But it shows some indications that will quite possibly encourage these folks to do further studies with more people and learn more. I'm very interested to see if they come out with more information.
I just said to my husband my muscles just do no feel the same after my recent third bout of covid… this really makes sense to me , I just get sooo flared up with hardly any exercise at all .. definitely passing this article on to my pain management group and PTs