Adolescent and Young Adult ME/CFS After Confirmed or Probable COVID-19

Lindsay S. Petracek, Stacy J. Suskauer, Rebecca F. Vickers, Neel R. Patel, Richard L. Violand, Renee L. Swope, Peter C. Rowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Fatigue is a common acute symptom following SARS-CoV-2 infection (COVID-19). The presence of persistent fatigue and impaired daily physical and cognitive function has led to speculation that like SARS-CoV-1 infection, COVID-19 will be followed by myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Methods and Results: We describe three adolescent and young adult patients who had confirmed or probable COVID-19 infections early on during the pandemic and were referred for evaluation to the Chronic Fatigue Clinic at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. All patients reported orthostatic intolerance symptoms within the first 2 weeks of illness, and 10-min passive standing tests were consistent with postural tachycardia syndrome. After 6 months of illness, all three patients met criteria for ME/CFS. Clinical features of interest included strong histories of allergies in all three patients, two of whom had elevations in plasma histamine. Each demonstrated limitations in symptom-free range of motion of the limbs and spine and two presented with pathological Hoffman reflexes. These comorbid features have been reported in adolescents and young adults with ME/CFS. Conclusion: ME/CFS can be triggered by COVID-19 in adolescents and young adults. Further work is needed to determine the pathogenesis of ME/CFS after COVID-19 and optimal methods of treating these patients. Our preliminary study calls attention to several comorbid features that deserve further attention as potential targets for intervention. These include neuromuscular limitations that could be treated with manual forms of therapy, orthostatic intolerance and POTS for which there are multiple medications and non-pharmacologic therapies, treatable allergic and mast cell phenomena, and neurologic abnormalities that may require specific treatment. Larger studies will need to ascertain the prevalence of these abnormalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number668944
JournalFrontiers in Medicine
StatePublished - Apr 29 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Hoffman sign
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • dysautonomia
  • mast cell activation
  • myalgic encephalomyelitis
  • neurodynamics
  • postural tachycardia syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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