‘We are struggling’: doctors faced with vacuum of information on long Covid

Three years into the pandemic, unanswered questions about the condition limit physicians’ ability to treat patients


Eric Berger

More than three years into the Covid pandemic, there are a host of important unanswered questions about long Covid, which significantly limit healthcare providers’ ability to treat patients with the condition, according to US physicians and scientists.

That vacuum of information remains as much of the US has moved on from the pandemic, while Covid long-haulers continue to face stigma and questions over whether their symptoms are real, providers say.

But while there has only been a trickle of new information about long Covid, doctors say that they remain confident that researchers will find answers to fundamental questions about the disease, such as: aside from contracting the virus itself, what actually causes long Covid?

“We don’t quite have our finger on the pulse of what’s wrong, what biologically is causing it, and that’s a big problem,” said Dr Marc Sala, co-director of the Northwestern Medicine Comprehensive Covid-19 Center. “It’s hard to direct drugs or treatments without having the biological underpinnings for why someone is feeling so fatigued with exercise.”

In addition to the ambiguity around the root causes of long Covid, there are also challenges in research because of how Covid can produce so many different symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list includes fatigue, respiratory issues and difficulty thinking or concentrating but also states that “post-Covid conditions may not affect everyone the same way”.