Long COVID and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS)-A Systemic Review and Comparison of Clinical Presentation and Symptomatology

Medicina (Kaunas). 2021 Apr 26;57(5):418. doi: 10.3390/medicina57050418.


Background and Objectives: Long COVID defines a series of chronic symptoms that patients may experience after resolution of acute COVID-19. Early reports from studies with patients with long COVID suggests a constellation of symptoms with similarities to another chronic medical illness-myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). A review study comparing and contrasting ME/CFS with reported symptoms of long COVID may yield mutualistic insight into the characterization and management of both conditions. Materials and Methods: A systemic literature search was conducted in MEDLINE and PsycInfo through to 31 January 2021 for studies related to long COVID symptomatology. The literature search was conducted in accordance with PRISMA methodology. Results: Twenty-one studies were included in the qualitative analysis. Long COVID symptoms reported by the included studies were compared to a list of ME/CFS symptoms compiled from multiple case definitions. Twenty-five out of 29 known ME/CFS symptoms were reported by at least one selected long COVID study. Conclusions: Early studies into long COVID symptomatology suggest many overlaps with clinical presentation of ME/CFS. The need for monitoring and treatment for patients post-COVID is evident. Advancements and standardization of long COVID research methodologies would improve the quality of future research, and may allow further investigations into the similarities and differences between long COVID and ME/CFS.

Keywords: COVID-19; ME/CFS; chronic fatigue syndrome; long-haul COVID-19; myalgic encephalomyelitis; systemic review.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic* / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Research Design
  • SARS-CoV-2