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Faye Flam

Long Covid May Help Us Understand Other Chronic Diseases

Scientists are starting to wonder just how many mysterious ailments may stem from viral or bacterial infections.

A medical mystery.

A medical mystery.

Photographer: Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

There’s a lot at stake in the quest to understand so-called long Covid. It may come as a surprise to some, but lingering post-infection symptoms don’t only happen with SARS-CoV-2. And what we’re learning from studies of Covid long-haulers might eventually help us understand other diseases, from chronic fatigue syndrome to cancer to Alzheimer’s.

“What we're seeing in Covid isn't really exactly new,” said epidemiologist Ziyad Al-Aly, who is studying long Covid at the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System. “There are a lot of other viruses that produce long-term manifestations.”