Below is an English translation of an August 4, 2022 German news release about a drug being developed for possible use by those suffering ME/CFS, POTS and “long COVID.” It follows this blog’s August 6, 2022 post “Hope for post-viral illnesses,” which provides background for this page. Please note that this is an early report about one patient. The results are extremely encouraging, but time will tell if the results are sustained over the longer term. It appears to be an important step in a long journey.
Today, Thursday, August 4, 2022, Klaus Holetschek, Bavaria’s Minister of State for Health and Care, and Bernhard Seidenath, Chairman of the Committee for Health and Care in the Bavarian State Parliament, visited the University Hospital Erlangen to see the Eye Clinic (Director: Prof. Dr . Friedrich E. Kruse) about the current status of local ME/CFS research.
PD dr dr Bettina Hohberger, molecular medicine specialist and doctor at the eye clinic of the University Hospital Erlangen, and Dr. Martin Kräter from the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Light was able to present the politicians with the first successes of their work for people with ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome): The Erlangen researchers pointed out objectively measurable parallels between Long COVID and ME /CFS after. “Specifically, this means: together with Dr. Gerd Wallukat, employee of Berlin Cures GmbH, we have identified the functionally active GPCR autoantibodies M2-AAb and β2-AAb in ME/CFS sufferers – two autoantibodies that are also found in long-COVID sufferers,” explained Dr. Hohberger.
ME/CFS is an acquired, severe, multisystem organic disease that results in severe pathological fatigue (physical and mental) after physical or mental exertion. “ME/CFS often occurs after viral infections, for example those associated with the Epstein-Barr virus or after influenza. Some of the COVID-19 sufferers also develop ME/CFS – as a severe form of long COVID, so to speak,” said Bettina Hohberger. This is part of the analogy with Long COVID Syndrome caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. No concrete organic defects can be detected in either disease.
The Erlangen researchers have now succeeded in detecting two autoantibodies, M2-AAb and β2-AAb, in patients with ME/CFS, analogous to long COVID. They also found the first indications of blood cell changes that could affect the body’s microcirculation. This took Dr. Hohberger on the occasion of also carrying out a healing trial with BC 007 in a patient with a long-known ME/CFS, similar to the healing trials with the aptamer BC 007 (Berlin Cures GmbH, Berlin). According to the patient, her symptoms improved over many months: First, cognitive symptoms such as brain fog, poor concentration and limited short-term memory decreased, and later also noise and light sensitivity. Fatigue, muscle weakness, and POTS—the postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome that causes tachycardia and dizziness in ME/CFS sufferers when they stand up—also decreased over several months. Driven by this initial success, the Erlangen researchers want to review both the diagnostics and the therapeutic approach in a larger number of patients with ME/CFS.
Great need for action
An estimated 250,000 people in Germany are affected by ME/CFS – and the trend is rising. “Young people between the ages of 11 and 40 in particular suffer from the disease, which is still poorly understood. With our research, we want to do everything we can to help those affected. And I am optimistic that we will succeed if university medicine, politics and the pharmaceutical industry pull together,” said Bettina Hohberger. “So far, there has only been a single promising treatment. Therefore, scientific studies are now needed that include many more patients. For this reason, in addition to our long-COVID research, we would like to carry out a clinical study with people affected by ME/CFS, which should provide us with initial indications of the mechanisms of action of BC 007 in this clinical picture,” explained Dr. Hohberger.
Bernhard Seidenath thanked the researchers led by Dr. Hohberger expressly: “No illness restricts the quality of life as much as the chronic fatigue syndrome ME/CFS. The research also and especially of the University Hospital Erlangen is therefore a ray of hope for all those affected by ME/CFS. It is a common concern for us to make the disease better known, to improve the care of those affected and to better network researchers in Bavaria. For this purpose we have made an additional 1.6 million euros available in the state budget for this year alone.”