Chronic COVID-19 Syndrome and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) following the first pandemic wave in Germany – a first analysis of a prospective observational study, n medRxiv 2021.02.06.21249256 []  This article is a preprint and has not been peer-reviewed


Research abstract:


Characterization of the clinical features of patients with persistent symptoms after mild to moderate COVID-19 infection and exploration of factors associated with the development of Chronic COVID-19 Syndrome (CCS).

Methods Setting:

Charité Fatigue Center with clinical immunologists and rheumatologist, neurologists and cardiologists at Charité University hospital.


42 patients who presented with persistent moderate to severe fatigue six months following a mostly mild SARS-CoV-2 infection at the Charité Fatigue Center from July to November 2020.

Main outcome measures:

The primary outcomes were clinical and paraclinical data and meeting diagnostic criteria for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS). Relevant neurological and cardiopulmonary morbidity was excluded.


The median age was 36.5, range 22–62, 29 patients were female and 13 male. At six months post acute COVID-19 all patients had fatigue (Chalder Fatigue Score median 25 of 33, range 14–32), the most frequent other symptoms were post exertional malaise (n=41), cognitive symptoms (n=40), headache (n=38), and muscle pain (n=35). Most patients were moderately to severely impaired in daily life with a median Bell disability score of 50 (range 15–90) of 100 (healthy) and Short Form 36 (SF-36) physical function score of 63 (range 15-80) of 100. 19 of 42 patients fulfilled the 2003 Canadian Consensus Criteria for myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

These patients reported more fatigue in the Chalder Fatigue Score (p=0.006), more stress intolerance (p=0.042) and more frequent and longer post exertional malaise (PEM) (p=0.003), and hypersensitivity to noise (p=0.029), light (p=0.0143) and temperature (p=0.024) compared to patients not meeting ME/CFS criteria. Handgrip force was diminished in most patients compared to healthy control values, and lower in CCS/CFS compared to non-CFS CCS (Fmax1 p=0.085, Fmax2, p=0.050, Fmean1 p=0.043, Fmean2 p=0.034, mean of 10 repeat handgrips, 29 female patients). Mannose-binding lectin (MBL) deficiency was observed frequently (22% of all patients) and elevated IL-8 levels were found in 43% of patients.


Chronic COVID-19 Syndrome at months 6 is a multisymptomatic frequently debilitating disease fulfilling diagnostic criteria of ME/CFS in about half of the patients in our study. Research in mechanisms and clinical trials are urgently needed.

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