Many patients who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 experience multiple symptoms long after they have recovered from the initial stages of COVID-19 illness. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has just announced a major new initiative to study this phenomenon with the goal of identifying its cause and how to treat and prevent it.
“Often referred to as ‘Long COVID’, these symptoms, which can include fatigue, shortness of breath, ‘brain fog’, sleep disorders, fevers, gastrointestinal symptoms, anxiety, and depression, can persist for months and can range from mild to incapacitating” says NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. “In some cases, new symptoms arise well after the time of infection or evolve over time. Through this initiative, we aim to learn more about how SARS-CoV-2 may lead to such widespread and lasting symptoms, and to develop ways to treat or prevent these conditions. We believe that the insight we gain from this research will also enhance our knowledge of the basic biology of how humans recover from infection, and improve our understanding of other chronic post-viral syndromes and autoimmune diseases, as well as other diseases with similar symptoms.”
According to Dr. Collins, some of the initial underlying questions that this initiative hopes to answer are:
- What does the spectrum of recovery from SARS-CoV-2 infection look like across the population?
- How many people continue to have symptoms of COVID-19, or even develop new symptoms, after acute SARS-CoV-2 infection?
- What is the underlying biological cause of these prolonged symptoms?
- What makes some people vulnerable to this but not others?
- Does SARS-CoV-2 infection trigger changes in the body that increase the risk of other conditions, such as chronic heart or brain disorders?
Click here to read the full NIH press release.