A top specialist at the National Institutes of Health who is co-chair of a study of long COVID said Sunday the range of complaints from those who suffer after-effects of the virus are "vast."
In an interview on CBS News' "Face The Nation," Dr. Walter Koroshetz, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health, said a new study hopes to better understand long COVID.
"Heterogeneity of the symptoms is quite vast," he said. "But I think there are some characteristics that make it very unusual."
According to Koroshetz, sufferers usually develop "a cluster of symptoms" that fall into certain categories.
"There are neurologic troubles … trouble concentrating, sleeping, sometimes peripheral nerve trouble, that sense of the bubbling on your skin," he said.
"Some people have pulmonary difficulties with continued sense of shortness of breath and a cough," he said. "Some people have cardiovascular trouble, a lot of trouble with exercise intolerance. Fatigue is just pretty much with most of the people have trouble. There's digestive tract trouble as well. And people tend to have a couple here and a couple there, but they are all seemingly tied to having had their COVID infection."
Koroshetz said though the study is new, the phenomenon is not.
"Four thousand people already enrolled, which makes it the largest in-person study of the post-COVID situation. And right now, we're collecting data on the different symptoms," he said.
"This is not a new problem exactly, because there are other infections in the past that have led to similar symptom clusters in people after infection," he added. "We've never been able to figure that out. This is our chance, I think, to delve deep and to try and understand what is going on in the biologic recovery in the people who don't make a good recovery."
What makes it a significant problem for the country is that no one knows how long the pandemic will last.
"We don't know what the long-term effects, you know, a decade now, from what has COVID done to our health in the country. It looks as though right now there's also an increased chance of developing diabetes after COVID," he said.
The doctors added because scientists don't know what's driving long COVID, there is no cure for it.
"We don't have like a magic bullet or cure for long COVID, because we don't understand what's driving it biologically," he said. "And so to get that … holy grail, we need to understand what is wrong in the body that's causing these symptoms, clusters of symptoms, in people. For the other infections that have occurred in the past, we've never been able to figure that out.
"These have existed for decades, we've never been able to figure them out," he said of the aftermath of other infections. "And yet people should have hope, because from what we've seen so far, people after COVID, even months after, still are getting better."
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