OU Health is projected to receive more than $1 million to participate in a National Institutes of Health (NIH) initiative to better understand the long-term effects of COVID-19 infection. Enrollment in the study begins soon, and researchers will follow participants for up to four years.
The NIH launched the RECOVER (Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery) Initiative to learn why some people have prolonged symptoms (often referred to as “long COVID”) or develop new or returning symptoms after the acute phase of infection from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The most common symptoms include pain, headaches, fatigue, “brain fog,” shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, fever, chronic cough and sleep problems.
“This is a unique opportunity to be part of a nationwide study that investigates the impact of post-acute sequelae from SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), which includes long COVID. In other viral infections, you rarely see long-term symptoms at the rate we have seen with COVID-19. If we can understand the biological underpinning of these symptoms, that may help us to better treat people who continue to have problems for weeks or months after the infection is over,” said Timothy VanWagoner, Ph.D., co-principal investigator of the study for OU Health.
VanWagoner is deputy director of the Oklahoma Clinical and Translational Science Institute (OCTSI) at the OU Health Sciences Center. The OCTSI unites universities, nonprofit organizations, American Indian communities, public agencies and primary care providers in research addressing the health outcomes of Oklahomans. OCTSI’s existing infrastructure will be used to enroll patients from across the state, including those in rural and medically underserved areas. OU Health is among more than 30 academic healthcare institutions across the nation enrolling patients in the study.
OU Health will enroll approximately 80 adults in three different study categories. One group will include individuals with a past COVID-19 infection who continue to have symptoms. Another group will be comprised of people with a recent COVID-19 infection who may or may not continue to have symptoms. To serve as study controls, the final group will feature people who have never had COVID-19. Participants will be asked to undergo laboratory tests and other analyses, depending on the category.
Current data show that 10% to 30% of people who have had a serious COVID-19 infection will continue to experience symptoms for at least one month. Researchers don’t know why symptoms persist long after the infection or why some people have little to no symptoms.
“The RECOVER study is important because researchers around the country will be sharing their findings in real time in an effort to find answers as quickly as possible,” said Judith James, M.D., Ph.D., co-principal investigator of the study for OU Health and director of the OCTSI. “We hope to discover factors that put people at higher risk for ‘long COVID’, as well as protective factors. That information will be critical for preventing and treating the long-term effects of the virus.”
The current study will focus solely on adults; however, a study in children and adolescents will be forthcoming.
For more information about enrolling in the OU Health study, call (405) 271-3490 or email [email protected].