Infectious Disease

Empathy holds ‘great power’ as rheumatologists find role in long COVID management

Source/Disclosures

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Calabrese L. What is the role of the rheumatologist in managing patients with long-COVID? Presented at: EULAR 2022 Congress; June 1-4, 2022 (virtual meeting).

Disclosures:
Calabrese reports financial relationships with AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Bristol Myers Squibb, ChemoCentyrx, Galvani, Genentech, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen, Sanofi, Sanofi-Regeneron and UCB.

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Although the future role for rheumatologists in treating patients with long COVID is still uncertain, patient validation and empathy will be key parts of the equation, according to a speaker at EULAR 2022 Congress.

“If we have to define the epidemiology in terms of its incidence, prevalence and risk factors, we are challenged because of this lack of uniform definition,” Leonard H. Calabrese, DO, professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University, and RJ Fasenmyer chair of clinical immunology at the Cleveland Clinic, told attendees during a prerecorded presentation at the meeting. “There are no specific criteria. There is a lot of reporting bias, accordingly, and there is no high-efficiency diagnostic biomarker to test for this.”

headshot of Leonard Calabrese, DO, and quote from story about empathy

Looking toward the future of care for patients with long COVID, Calabrese predicted several roles for rheumatologists.

“The rheumatologist’s role in long COVID is yet to be defined,” Calabrese said. “I think that there are many rheumatologists out there contributing to research, particularly in this area of ​​immune activation and autoimmunity.”

Additionally, the incidence of long COVID in patients with rheumatic diseases is still being investigated, Calabrese said. He added that studies demonstrating results, including an increased incidence of long COVID among patients with rheumatic diseases, as was presented at the American College of Rheumatology’s 2021 annual meeting, will likely be reproducible.

“We may see patients with clinical endotypes considered the domain of rheumatology,” Calabrese said.

Long COVID endotypes, including factors such as pain and fatigue, will likely fall in that category, he added.

Calabrese also noted the possibility that rheumatologists may play an important role in therapeutic trials involving immunomodulatory drugs.

Lastly, he stated that there is “true value” in validating patients who complain of long COVID.

“It’s not an argument of what type of disease it is, what causes it,” Calabrese said. “Listening to patients and validating their symptoms: That relationship can have great power in getting people through this.”

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EULAR Annual Congress

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