Insights

Long Covid: worth reporting

As a science journalist, Long Covid is a topic well worth keeping an eye on – and not just because it is interesting, important, and affecting people in your work, family or social spheres. It may well have broader implications for what some now call post-infection syndromes.

Twenty, fifteen, ten years ago, if you came down with the post-infection syndrome labelled ME/CFS, you could expect to get little medical insight, support and sympathy from your healthcare professionals, family, and friends. Sufferers were widely regarded as malingerers or attention-seekers, exaggerating small symptoms and refusing to do things to improve their health, like engage in daily exercise.

Over time, with some robust and heroic campaigning, by patients ill-equipped to do the hard yards such that campaigning requires, views have shifted. Not only about the palpable reality of the condition, but also about its impact: in 2018, some careful mining of big data found that “… a prevalence rate of 857/100,000 for ME/CFS is not unreasonable; therefore, it is not a rare disease, but in fact a relatively common one” with costs 50% higher than those of lupus and multiple sclerosis.

Although ME/CFS’s triggers have not been conclusively demonstrated, it “has been associated with several infectious agents including Epstein–Barr Virus, Q fever, influenza, and other coronaviruses”.

The burden of Long Covid on society (never mind the severe and debilitating impact on individuals) is enormous. As of 31 January 2022, the Office of National Statistics in the UK reported that some 1.5 million people in that country were “experiencing long COVID symptoms, with 65% of those reporting a negative impact on their day-to-day activities. In the USA and UK, millions are taking long-term absence from the workforce due to long COVID”. The toll in the USA may be as high as 23 million.

Sharp, accurate reporting on Long Covid around the globe will help to drive funding for the kind of complex research necessary to understand the condition, to find ways to prevent the damage that results in Long Covid, and develop treatments that improve quality of life for sufferers. The hope is that such research will also shine a light on the potential long-term consequences of other infections, whether from bacteria or a range of viruses, and perhaps ultimately help those who suffer from conditions like ME/CFS, too.

Why Long COVID Can Cause Pain
4th April 2022, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

A new animal study has provided important insights into how COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 — the virus responsible for COVID-19 — can lead to long-term pain. The new findings also point to a potential therapy for COVID-related pain. “A significant number of...

Evaluation of science advice during the COVID-19 pandemic in Sweden
22nd March 2022, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

Sweden was well equipped to prevent the pandemic of COVID-19 from becoming serious. Over 280 years of collaboration between political bodies, authorities, and the scientific community had yielded many successes in preventive medicine. Sweden’s population is literate and has a...

The COVID-19 ‘infodemic’ continues to undermine trust in vaccination efforts aiming to bring an end to the pandemic. However, the challenge of vaccine hesitancy is not only a problem of the information ecosystem and it often has little to do...

Long Covid is a potentially disabling syndrome affecting an estimated 10-15% of subjects who survive COVID-19. Symptoms of long Covid include extreme tiredness, shortness of breath and dizziness. The vagus nerve extends from the brain down into the torso and...

The mRNA vaccine development landscape for infectious diseases
11th February 2022, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines were authorized for emergency use less than one year after the emergence of COVID-19, demonstrating the incredible development speed of the mRNA platform technology. However, while the versatility of the mRNA platform could allow...

SARS-CoV-2 is the cause of the disease we know as COVID-19. While this disease has wreaked havoc on every human population worldwide, what isn’t as well appreciated is that the virus can also infect a range of animals. The World...

Abstract COVID-19-related (vs. non-related) articles appear to be more expeditiously processed and published in peer-reviewed journals. We aimed to evaluate: (i) whether COVID-19-related preprints were favored for publication, (ii) preprinting trends and public discussion of the preprints, and (iii) the...

COVID-19: endemic doesn’t mean harmless
24th January 2022, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

The word ‘endemic’ has become one of the most misused of the pandemic. And many of the errant assumptions made encourage a misplaced complacency. It doesn’t mean that COVID-19 will come to a natural end. To an epidemiologist, an endemic...

Facebook versus The BMJ: when fact checking goes wrong
19th January 2022, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

On 3 November Howard Kaplan, a retired dentist from Israel, posted a link to a BMJ investigation article in a private Facebook group.1 The investigation reported poor clinical trial research practices occurring at Ventavia, a contract research company helping to...

Myocarditis and Vaccines @GidMK Twitter Thread
19th January 2022, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

Health Nerd @GidMK I think the vaccine/COVID myocarditis issue in kids really shows the difference between those reasonably weighing up costs and benefits and those who are either dishonest or not very good at epidemiology 1/n 9:54 PM · Jan...

Ivermectin for COVID-19: Addressing Potential Bias and Medical Fraud
17th January 2022, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

Abstract Ivermectin has become a controversial potential medicine for coronavirus disease 2019. Some early studies suggested clinical benefits in treatment of infection. However, the body of evidence includes studies of varying quality. Furthermore, some trials have now been identified as...

Fact check: The theory that SARS-CoV-2 is becoming milder
14th January 2022, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

There’s a growing narrative in the mainstream media, on social media — maybe even at your dinner table. That is: The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is weakening and evolving into a less deadly virus. In the future, each new variant that crops...

Patients with the omicron variant of covid-19 shed virus for longer after symptoms emerge, show data from Japan, potentially jeopardising hopes that the period of isolation for people testing positive could be shortened. Preliminary data from the National Institute of...

Abstract Natural herd immunity, where community-acquired infections in low-risk populations are used to protect high risk populations from infection–has seen high profile support in some quarters, including through the Great Barrington Declaration. However, this approach has been widely criticized as...

Could microclots help explain the mystery of long Covid?
5th January 2022, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

One of the biggest failures during the Covid-19 pandemic is our slow response in diagnosing and treating long Covid. As many as 100 million people worldwide already suffer from long Covid. That staggering number will eventually be much higher, if...

Elsevier has subjected an entire special issue of a journal — including a paper claiming COVID-19 vaccines kill five times more people over 65 than they save — to an expression of concern. The special issue of Toxicology Reports contained...

J&J vaccine loses antibody protection against Omicron: study
15th December 2021, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine produced virtually no antibody protection against the omicron coronavirus variant in a laboratory experiment, underlining the new strain’s ability to get around one pillar of the body’s defences. The vaccine appears to provide some defence against...

‘Science is flawed’: COVID-19, ivermectin, and beyond
11th December 2021, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

There are no two ways about it: Science is flawed. We’re not talking about the philosophical leanings of science or the origins of white coats and linoleum-floored laboratories, but about the nuts and bolts of the process by which we...

With restricted face-to-face interactions, COVID-19 lockdowns and distancing measures tested the capability of computer-mediated communication to foster social contact and wellbeing. In a multinational sample (n = 6436), we investigated how different modes of contact related to wellbeing during the pandemic. Computer-mediated...

Rethinking Molnupiravir
1st December 2021, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

I was quite surprised by the efficacy that Merck reported for the viral polymerase inhibitor molnupiravir when those interim trial results were announced in October. But the FDA just held an advisory committee meeting on the drug yesterday (here’s Matthew...

New Concerning Variant: B.1.1.529
26th November 2021, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

I hope everyone in the States had a fantastic Thanksgiving (even if you’re a Dallas Cowboys football fan). I hate to ruin the holiday, but… We have a new variant. I’ve not seen this much anxiety ridden chatter among scientists...

Heavily mutated Omicron variant puts scientists on alert
25th November 2021, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

Researchers in South Africa are racing to track the concerning rise of a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The variant harbours a large number of the mutations found in other variants, including Delta, and it seems...

Even Health-Care Workers With Long COVID Are Being Dismissed
24th November 2021, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

Before she caught COVID-19 at a wedding in March 2020, the physician associate spent her days diagnosing and treating people; after she was infected, she turned to her own colleagues for that same care. “At first,” she told me, “I...

Science changes – and so should rational behaviour
24th November 2021, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

The world around us, and the way researchers study and understand it, changes all the time. The constant change means that what we know through science also shifts. Take the airborne nature of SARS-CoV-2: early in the COVID-19 pandemic key...

Pharmaceutical messianism and the COVID-19 pandemic
14th November 2021, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

Abstract As part of their populist performances during disease outbreaks, public officials and politicians tend to offer ‘miracle cures’ or ‘wonder drugs’ that can supposedly treat or prevent the disease in question. This article analyzes contemporary instances of what we...

Scientists: don’t feed the doubt machine
2nd November 2021, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

Researchers at the COP26 climate talks this month know well how doubt can be weaponized to delay action — something many COVID-19 scientists have taken too long to appreciate. They point out problematic methods, poor study design and unjustified claims,...

The Problem with Preprints
1st November 2021, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

Much of the public first heard of “preprints” on March 20, 2020, just nine days after the World Health Organization declared a pandemic, when a too-good-to-be-true treatment for SARS-CoV-2 infection appeared on medRxiv. The paper, which described a small clinical...

The real scandal about ivermectin
23rd October 2021, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

Ivermectin is an antiparasitic drug, and a very good one. If you are infected with the roundworms that cause river blindness or the parasitic mites that cause scabies, it is wonderfully effective. It is cheap; it is accessible; and its...

What Even Counts as Science Writing Anymore?
2nd October 2021, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

I entered 2020 thinking of myself as a science writer. I ended the year less sure. While the first sparks of the COVID-19 pandemic ignited at the end of 2019, I was traipsing through a hillside in search of radio-tagged...

Most Covid-19 vaccine misinformation in the US is driven by 12 individuals, most of whom work in ‘alternative medicine’. Joseph Mercola, the leading member of the ‘dirty dozen’, is worth more than $100-million. At the height of South Africa’s Aids...

The tangled history of mRNA vaccines
14th September 2021, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

In late 1987, Robert Malone performed a landmark experiment. He mixed strands of messenger RNA with droplets of fat, to create a kind of molecular stew. Human cells bathed in this genetic gumbo absorbed the mRNA, and began producing proteins...

Understanding long COVID: a modern medical challenge
28th August 2021, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the need to understand and respond to long COVID is increasingly pressing. Symptoms such as persistent fatigue, breathlessness, brain fog, and depression could debilitate many millions of people globally. Yet very little is known about...

In 1988, as Russian scientist Nikolai Ustinov worked in the VECTOR lab, part of a Russian program to develop viral weapons, he accidentally infected himself with the Marburg virus, a deadly pathogen related to Ebola. He died weeks later. During...

Profiteering from vaccine inequity: a crime against humanity?
16th August 2021, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

Early in the pandemic, Pfizer announced an intention to profit from its covid-19 vaccine.1 In the first three months of 2021, Pfizer’s vaccine brought in $3.5bn (£2.5bn; €3bn) in revenue and hundreds of millions in profit.2 Other companies are also...

Abstract Scientists across disciplines, policymakers, and journalists have voiced frustration at the unprecedented polarization and misinformation around coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Several false dichotomies have been used to polarize debates while oversimplifying complex issues. In this comprehensive narrative review,...

Summary Background The COVID-19 pandemic priorities have focused on prevention, detection, and response. Beyond morbidity and mortality, pandemics carry secondary impacts, such as children orphaned or bereft of their caregivers. Such children often face adverse consequences, including poverty, abuse, and...

Introduction During the pandemic, there has been ongoing and contentious debate around the impact of restrictive government measures to contain SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks, often termed ‘lockdowns’. We define a ‘lockdown’ as a highly restrictive set of non-pharmaceutical interventions against COVID-19, including...

Defining covid-19 elimination
15th July 2021, Curated by Mandi Smallhorne

Speaking about progress towards ending the covid-19 epidemic in the United States, Anthony Fauci said: “We will end the epidemic phase, and we will likely get somewhere between control and elimination, more likely closer to control.”1 Now authorities in England...