Sources and updates, June 11

  • Quantifying Long COVID’s impact on day-to-day life: A new study published this week in the BMJ is one of the first I’ve seen to focus not on Long COVID’s symptoms, but on how it impacts quality of life for patients. Researchers at University College London assessed life impacts for about 3,700 Long COVID patients using surveys in an online health platform. The surveys found that “Long COVID can leave people with worse fatigue and quality of life than some cancers, yet the support and understanding is not at the same level,” study coauthor Dr. William Henley said in a statement about the research. This study confirms what I’ve heard from many long-haulers in interviews over the last couple of years.
  • Long COVID and ME/CFS similarities: Another notable Long COVID paper: two leading experts on chronic illness, Dr. Anthony Komaroff at Harvard Medical School and W. Ian Lipkin at Columbia University, wrote a detailed review identifying commonalities between Long COVID and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), a debilitating condition with symptoms similar to Long COVID that often occurs after infection. ME/CFS has long been under-recognized and understudied, but there are still lessons from this condition that can inform Long COVID research and lead to answers for both diseases. The review paper points to directions for future study.
  • Metformin for Long COVID: One more Long COVID paper: a study published this week in The Lancet shares results from a Long COVID clinical trial at the University of Minnesota, which found that the diabetes drug metformin reduces the risk of developing long-term symptoms when patients take it early in the course of a COVID-19 case. I shared this study when it was first posted as a preprint in March, and also spoke to one of its authors for my STAT/MuckRock story about the RECOVER initiative. I’m glad to see that the major findings haven’t changed in this peer-reviewed version; metformin appears to be a promising treatment option, though more study is needed.
  • At-home test receives FDA approval: This week, the FDA approved an at-home, rapid COVID-19 test made by the company Cue Health. It’s the first at-home test to receive full approval, as these tests have previously received Emergency Use Authorization under public health emergency rules. With the federal emergency over, the FDA is encouraging test companies to apply for full approval so that at-home COVID-19 tests can be distributed (and marketed) like other commonly-available health products. The emerency authorizations still apply for tests that don’t have full approval yet, though.
  • COVID-19 Medicaid rules led to more coverage for children: For the first three years of the pandemic, federal rules tied to the public health emergency forbid states from kicking their residents off of Medicaid. The policy led to a significant increase in Americans with health insurance—and that includes children, according to a new paper published this week in Health Affairs. For states that changed their Medicaid rules for children due to the pandemic policy, coverage increased by about 5% from 2019 to 2021, representing thousands of kids who were able to get healthcare more easily. Of course, these kids and their family members are now likely to lose their health insurance, as the federal policy ended in April.
  • Animal behaviors changed during 2020 lockdowns: Remember when, in the early days of the pandemic, big cities with more stringent lockdowns saw more wild animals than normal? A new paper from a large coalition of scientists, published this week in Science, finds that this pattern wasn’t just anecdotal: animal behavior really did change. The scientists compiled a large dataset of animals tracked with GPS, representing 2,300 individuals from 43 different mammal species, and compared their behaviors in spring 2020 to the same period in 2019. Animals living in areas under strict lockdowns were more likely to travel outside their normal ranges, the researchers found.

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