Our Evolving Understanding of ME/CFS

Kenneth J. Friedman (Coresponding Author), Modra Murovska, Derek F.H. Pheby, Paweł Zalewski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


The potential benefits of the scientific insights gleaned from years of treating ME/CFS for the emerging symptoms of COVID-19, and in particular Longhaul-or Longhauler-COVID-19 are discussed in this opinion article. Longhaul COVID-19 is the current name being given to the long-term sequelae (symptoms lasting beyond 6 weeks) of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Multiple case definitions for ME/CFS exist, but post-exertional malaise (PEM) is currently emerging as the ‘hallmark’ symptom. The inability to identify a unique trigger of ME/CFS, as well as the inability to identify a specific, diagnostic laboratory test, led many physicians to conclude that the illness was psychosomatic or non-existent. However, recent research in the US and the UK, championed by patient organizations and their use of the internet and social media, suggest underlying pathophysiologies, e.g., oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction. The similarity and overlap of ME/CFS and Longhaul COVID-19 symptoms suggest to us similar pathological processes. We put forward a unifying hypothesis that explains the precipitating events such as viral triggers and other documented exposures: For their overlap in symptoms, ME/CFS and Longhaul COVID-19 should be described as Post Active Phase of Infection Syndromes (PAPIS). We further propose that the underlying biochemical pathways and pathophysiological processes of similar symptoms are similar regardless of the initiating trigger. Exploration of the biochemical pathways and pathophysiological processes should yield effective therapies for these conditions and others that may exhibit these symptoms. ME/CFS patients have suffered far too long. Longhaul COVD-19 patients should not be subject to a similar fate. We caution that failure to meet the now combined challenges of ME/CFS and Longhaul COVID-19 will impose serious socioeconomic as well as clinical consequences for patients, the families of patients, and society as a whole.

Original languageEnglish
Article number200
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages5
JournalMedicina (Lithuania)
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2021


  • Longhaul COVID-19
  • ME/CFS
  • Pathophysiology

Field of Science*

  • 1.6 Biological sciences
  • 3.3 Health sciences

Publication Type*

  • 1.1. Scientific article indexed in Web of Science and/or Scopus database


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