Why do some people succumb to “Long Covid,” what are the implications for a person’s health and work and what are the factors involved with recovery? These questions will be addressed in forthcoming research by a team of researchers out of University College London. Thanks to a £9.6 million grant from the UK’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), Professor Nishi Chaturvedi (MRC Unit for Lifelong Health & Ageing) will use data from 60,000 people over three years to help define what Long Covid actually is while also studying how to improve diagnosis. Meanwhile, another ££1.36 million research grant will support Professor Sir Terence Stephenson (UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health) and his investigation into the impact of Long Covid on 11 to 17 year-olds. As it turns out, the NIHR and UKRI have founded a total of four major studies investigating Long Covid.
The recently funded UK Long Covid studies were recommended by an independent panel of research experts and patients with Long Covid.
What is Long Covid?
As reported on by UC, about one in 10 people with Covid-19 continue to experience symptoms and impaired quality of life beyond 12 weeks. Long Covid may comprise several distinct syndromes that aren’t yet fully characterized and understood. A systematic review has highlighted 55 different long-term effects but common symptoms of Long Covid include breathlessness, headaches, cough, fatigue and cognitive implementation or “brain fog.”
What is the data source for these UK-based real world studies?
Researchers will analyze data from a combination of national anonymized electronic health records and ongoing longitudinal studies of people of all ages in the UK (including four cohort studies hosted by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, and the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children).
In these UCL-led studies, participants reporting Long Covid and comparator groups will need to wear a wristband measuring exercise ability, breathing, and heart rate. Participants will complete an online questionnaire on mental health and cognitive function. The participants will also be invited to a clinic for non-invasive imaging to look at potential organ damage.
Professor Chaturvedi will seek to explain why some people fall ill with Long Covid, the typical effects on a person’s health and ability to work and the factors impacting recovery as reported in UCL News. The researcher emphasizes a “whole population perspective, including hard-to-reach groups.”
Meanwhile in the CLoCK study, Professor Stephenson will investigate symptoms of Long Covid among children and young adults who were not hospitalized. This study team looks into risk factors, prevalence and duration of Long Covid in this cohort. Importantly, Stephenson seeks to establish a medical diagnosis and operational definition of the condition as well as generate insight into how the ailment can be best treated.
Stephenson shared, “It is really important in science to ‘believe what you hear, not hear what you believe’ and so we plan to ask 3,000 children and young people to tell us about the impact of Covid-19 infection on their health over the next two years. We will also ask 3,000 young people who tested negative for Covid-19 the same questions. He continued, “This will help us tease out whether ongoing problems are due to COVID-19 infection or due to COVID-19 lockdown, social isolation and disruption of schools and friendships.
UCL is a public research university located in London, UK. A member institution of the federal University of London, it’s the largest university in the UK by total enrollment apart from Open University—UCL has the largest postgraduate enrollment. Founded back in 1826 as London University, it became the first university established in London, and the first in England to be entirely secular and to admit students regardless of religion.
With over 40,000 students and a budget of over £1.4 billion pounds, UCL dedicates extensive resources, capital and effort into clinical research. For example, its Medical Research Council (MRC) Clinical Trials Unit is at the forefront of resolving internationally important questions in infectious diseases and cancer and prides itself on delivering faster and more effective translation of scientific research into patient benefits.
Professor Nishi Chaturvedi, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology (Cardiometabolic Disease), UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science, Faculty of Population Health Sciences
Professor Sir Terence Stephenson, Nuffield Professor of Child Health, Population, Policy & Practice Dept, UCL GOS Institute of Child Health