Researchers at UC San Diego School of Medicine and Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego have joined a nationwide study intended to better understand the long-term impact of COVID-19, it was announced Friday.
The $1.15 billion, four-year study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, is called the Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery Initiative. Its intent is to better understand "post-acute sequelae of the SARS-CoV-2" infections or PASC, more commonly known as "long-COVID," according to a statement from the NIH.
"We are excited to be a part of this national effort to learn more about long-COVID and the factors that put someone at risk for developing this condition," said Dr. Kelan Tantisira, professor and chief of the Division of Respiratory Medicine at Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego.
Long-COVID refers to symptoms that persist for weeks or months after COVID-19 infection. The symptoms are wide-ranging and can include pain, headaches, fatigue, "brain fog," shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, fever, chronic cough and sleep problems, among others.
Additionally, in some children and adults, PASC includes multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs.
Since the pandemic began, more than 90 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The incidence of long-COVID is not precisely known, but current data suggests 10% to 30% of those who have an acute infection will experience persistent symptoms lasting at least one month.
"Our goal is to better understand the disease so we can develop effective treatments and prevention strategies for the community," said Dr. Kyung (Kay) Rhee, professor and chief of the Division of Child and Community Health at UCSD School of Medicine and the Department of Pediatrics at Rady Children's.
More than 30 research teams across the country will be supported by more than $448 million in funding from the NIH.
The local study will evaluate how often long-COVID occurs within the community following infection and follow the natural history of and risk factors over several years in newborns, children and young adults. According to a joint statement from UCSD and Rady, patients with or without SARS-CoV-2 infection will be enrolled into the study, and patients with varying stages of long-COVID will participate in long-term follow-up to better understand the disease process.