Legislation recently introduced in the U.S. House would expand and coordinate National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding to address post-viral chronic neuroimmune diseases in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill would support research and data collection to understand how best to diagnose and treat these diseases and to assess possible risk factors. The bill also would fund public awareness and education campaigns to emphasize early diagnosis.
Neuroimmune diseases include chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Symptoms, often exacerbated by exertion, include intense fatigue, chronic pain, cognitive impairment, autonomic dysfunction, and sleep disorders.
Between 836,000 and 2.5 million people in the United States suffer from ME/CFS, according to the Institute of Medicine. Up to 80 percent of cases are caused by a viral infection.
Approximately one-third of patients who survived previous coronavirus infections developed ME/CFS-like symptoms that lasted more than a year, according to Dr. Alain Moreau from the University of Montréal, Moreau predicts COVID-19 will cause an increase in ME/CFS.
“We cannot let the number of ME/CFS cases rise due to a lack of research and understanding,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), who introduced the bill, said. “As we battle the coronavirus, this critical legislation will help us respond to this ME/CFS hidden health crisis.”