Stanford Medicine to enroll 900 in NIH-funded long-COVID study

Data suggest that between 10% and 30% of those who have had an acute SARS-CoV-2 infection will experience the persistent pattern of symptoms known as long COVID.

- By Bruce Goldman

Rosie Flores, who suffered from symptoms of long COVID, meets with physician Linda Geng at Stanford Medicine's Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome Clinic in June. Now, Stanford researchers are expected to receive nearly $15 million to study long COVID as part of an initiative sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.
Steve Fisch

Researchers at Stanford Medicine are projected to receive close to $15 million over a four-year period from the National Institutes of Health to study long-lasting patterns of COVID-19-related symptoms, commonly known as long COVID. 

The Stanford investigators constitute one of more than 30 research teams participating in the NIH-sponsored RECOVER (Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery) Initiative. RECOVER was established to identify risk factors for long COVID, develop strategies for preventing and treating it, and learn why some people experience faster and fuller recoveries than others.

The Stanford Medicine site of the initiative will enroll 900 COVID-19 survivors, including those experiencing lingering symptoms of the initial infection by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease. Participants will be monitored over four years via annual visits. 

Data suggest that between 10% and 30% of people who have had an acute SARS-CoV-2 infection experience symptoms lasting at least one month. Common long-COVID symptoms include pain, headaches, fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, fever, chronic cough and sleep problems. Some survivors, particularly people with severe infections, have lingering lung problems.

Principal investigators of the Stanford Medicine site are Upinder Singh, MD, professor of infectious diseases and geographical medicine and of microbiology and immunology; PJ Utz, MD, PhD, professor of immunology and rheumatology; Catherine Blish, MD, PhD, professor of infectious diseases; and Yvonne Maldonado, MD, professor of pediatric infectious disease and of epidemiology and population health, as well as the Taube Professor of Global Health and Infectious Diseases. Additional collaborators within Stanford Medicine include the departments of Emergency Medicine and of Pediatrics.

The RECOVER Initiative, Singh said, is designed to better understand the incidence, prevalence and pathophysiology of long COVID in the hope of finding ways to treat and prevent the syndrome. 

“It has been clearly demonstrated that even those with initially mild COVID symptoms can get long COVID,” Singh said. “We hope to find out why.”

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