New definition of long COVID aims to offer clarity, direction

long covid

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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), in response to a request from the US federal government, has published a new consensus diagnosis for long COVID.

While working groups, national governments, and health organizations have all offered definition of long COVID, no general consensus exists.

"Inconsistencies in definitions have created challenges, and a consensus definition could promote consistency in diagnosis, aid awareness efforts, help patients access appropriate care, services, and benefits, and help harmonize Long COVID research and surveillance," the authors said. 

Inconsistencies in definitions have created challenges.

The definition, which can be applied to both children and adults, reads: "Long COVID (LC) is an infection-associated chronic condition (IACC) that occurs after SARS-CoV-2 infection and is present for at least 3 months as a continuous, relapsing and remitting, or progressive disease state that affects one or more organ systems."

In a press release on the definition, Harvey Fineberg, MD, PhD, president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the chair of the authoring committee said, "The lack of a consistent definition for Long COVID has hampered research and delayed diagnosis and care for patients. Our committee hopes this single definition, crafted with input from across research and patient communities, will help to educate the public about this widespread and highly consequential disease state."

Long COVID can follow asymptomatic cases

The NASEM emphasizes that long COVID can follow asymptomatic, mild, or severe cases of COVID-19. 

"LC can be diagnosed on clinical grounds. No biomarker currently available demonstrates conclusively the presence of LC," the authors wrote.

The definition, and the term "long COVID," should be used by clinicians, researchers, drugmakers, employers, and educators, the authors said. 

"Long COVID is a devastatingly persistent result of the COVID-19 pandemic that the medical community has yet to fully address," said Victor J. Dzau, MD, president of the National Academy of Medicine. "Serving this patient population through better-coordinated care, more definitive diagnoses, and more efficient and streamlined research are important next steps for addressing its impact.”

Last week the NASEM issued a major report outlining findings in patients who have long COVID, including that more than 200 symptoms have been associated with the condition. 

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