Some People With Long COVID Tested Negative for COVD-19

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Aug. 24, 2023 -- Some cases of long COVID-19 might be going unidentified because the patient’s initial infection wasn’t detected.

That’s according to a small, new study published in Neurology, Neuroimmunology & Neuroinflammation.

About 103 million Americans had COVID-19, and about a third of those led to long COVID, Stat News reported. The condition ranges in severity and can be debilitating.

The new study looked at just 29 patients. “But it offers unique insights into how many cases of long Covid may go unidentified because the patient’s Covid-19 infection wasn’t detected,” Stat News wrote.

“We estimated that there were approximately 10 million people in the first year of the pandemic in the U.S. who are in this predicament: who got Covid, got long Covid, but tested negative for Covid,” said Igor Koralnik, who led the study and is the chief of the division of neuroinfectious diseases and global neurology at Northwestern Medicine.

The study means that a positive diagnosis for COVID-19 shouldn’t be required to get treatment for people who have symptoms of long COVID, said Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, a clinical epidemiologist at Washington University in St. Louis, who was not involved with the study.

Some people live in areas where testing isn’t widely available or have other issues accessing testing, he said.

“Restricting access to care [for] long Covid to people who had established disease will disenfranchise and really marginalize people who are actually likely the most vulnerable among us,” said Al-Aly.

These so-called “negative long-haulers” should be included in trials and studies on long COVID, Koralnik said. They currently are not.