U.S. Government Launches 4-Year, $1.2 Billion Long Covid Study

U.S. Government Launches 4-Year, $1.2 Billion Long Covid Study

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched one of the world's largest studies to better understand long Covid. 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched one of the world's largest studies to better understand long Covid, CNBC has reported.

The $1.15 billion taxpayer-funded study, named Recover, is seeking to enroll nearly 40,000 people by the end of this year. It will have research teams at more than thirty universities and medical institutions across the United States.

“It will follow those participants over four years, comparing people with Covid to those who’ve never had it, with the goal of identifying all the long-term symptoms and finding out how the virus is causing them,” CNBC writes.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “most people who get Covid-19 recover within a few weeks. But some people—even those who had mild versions of the disease—might have symptoms that last a long time afterward.”

It adds that long Covid “involves a variety of new, returning or ongoing symptoms that people experience more than four weeks after getting Covid-19. In some people, [they can last] months or years or causes disability.”

In a study published last year in the Lancet, the Patient-Led Research Collaborative found that there are more than 200 long Covid symptoms across ten organ systems.

CNBC reported that the NIH is also planning to launch a “suite of clinical trials” on potential long Covid treatments in the coming months. According to Dr. Gary Gibbons, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the medical research agency is in discussions with the pharmaceutical industry on studying whether antivirals and other interventions can prevent or treat long Covid.

But Gibbons admitted that the NIH will likely need more funding due to the scope and complexity of the research. “We would anticipate to really fully do the clinical trial portfolio that patients with long Covid deserve, it probably will exceed $1.15 billion initial allocation that Congress awarded,” he said.

It appears that the NIH’s efforts have taken on a more sense of urgency in recent weeks, as health officials are facing mounting concern that the United States is heading toward a summer Covid-19 surge.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that the highly transmissible BA.5 Omicron subvariant is now the dominant coronavirus strain in the country. According to the Wall Street Journal, BA.5 surpassed BA.2.12.1, the version of Omicron partly responsible for the surge in springtime cases that is now estimated to represent about a quarter of all cases. Combined, BA.5 and the BA.4 sub-strain, first discovered earlier this year in South Africa, now make up 70 percent of cases.

In response, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that the next round of coronavirus booster shots, likely rolling out this fall, will be modified to target the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 in addition to the original strain of the virus.

“As we move into the fall and winter, it is critical that we have safe and effective vaccine boosters that can provide protection against circulating and emerging variants to prevent the most severe consequences of COVID-19,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the FDA, said in a statement.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Finance and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Image: Reuters.