UK backs raft of studies into long-COVID as concerns mount

The UK – currently facing a surge in new cases as the Delta variant continues to spread rapidly – is backing 15 new studies into the treatment and diagnosis of long-COVID.

According to a recent study published in Lancet’s journal EClinicalMedicine surveyed 3,762 people with confirmed or suspected long-COVID from 56 countries. It identified 203 symptoms, of which 66 were tracked for seven months.

The most common symptoms were fatigue, post-exertional malaise (where people’s health worsens after physical or mental exertion) and ‘brain fog’.

Other effects included visual hallucinations, tremors, itchy skin, changes to the menstrual cycle, sexual dysfunction, heart palpitations, bladder control issues, shingles, memory loss, blurred vision, diarrhoea and tinnitus.

The latest projects, which will have nearly £20 million pounds of government funding, will focus on better understanding the condition, identifying effective treatments and the best ways to care for those suffering from it.

“This package of research will provide much needed hope to people with long-term health problems after COVID-19,” said Nick Lemoine, chair of the National Institute for Health Research’s long COVID funding committee.

One study, at University College London, will recruit more than 4,500 people with long-COVID to test the effectiveness of existing drugs as treatments over three months to see the impact on symptoms, mental health and the ability to return to work.

It will also look at whether MRI scans can be used to diagnose organ damage.

Another study at Cardiff University will look at whether the condition is caused by overactive or impaired immune responses, while research at Leeds, Oxford and Glasgow will examine the best care regime, the causes of breathlessness and the impact of obesity among people with long COVID, respectively.

The government has previously announced £100 million for services to support those with long-COVID, with 80 assessment services open in England so far.

“This new research is absolutely essential to improve diagnosis and treatments and will be life-changing for those who are battling long-term symptoms of the virus,” health minister Sajid Javid – who has recently made the news after contacting COVID despite being double-jabbed­ – said.

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