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Hodder among team unraveling the mystery around long COVID symptoms

More than three years after the COVID-19 pandemic began, many people are still dealing with the lingering effects of long COVID which leaves some COVID-infected people with a range of chronic symptoms.

A study, published in May of this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), lays the groundwork needed to define post-acute sequelae of COVID-19, (PASC), also referred to as long COVID. A team of investigators, including Dr. Sally Hodder, co-authored the study which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) initiative launched in early 2021.

“This study presents a substantial initial step guiding our understanding of the set of symptoms associated with long COVID, but it is only a starting point” said Hodder, associate vice president for clinical and translational science, the Chancellor’s Preeminent Scholar Chair at West Virginia University and director of the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute (WVCTSI), one of 15 centers chosen to lead the NIH adult RECOVER initiative and the Principal Investigator for 13 sites that comprise the IDeA States Consortium for Clinical Research (ISCORE). “The work is far from done and the hope is to build upon this study’s findings to develop a PASC definition that includes biomarkers as well as symptoms to accurately define the disease and ultimately identify treatment and prevention strategies.”

In this initial look at RECOVER data, researchers examined data from 9,764 adults in the RECOVER observational cohort study, which has been recruiting participants since last year. The vast majority of study participants, 8,646 people, had previously been diagnosed with COVID-19.

While there are hundreds of symptoms possibly associated with long COVID, the study has shown there are 12 symptoms that are consistent and especially characteristic for the condition. Those symptoms include post-exertional malaise, fatigue, brain fog, dizziness, gastrointestinal symptoms, heart palpitations, issues with sexual desire or capacity, loss of smell or taste, thirst, chronic cough, chest pain, and abnormal movements. The study also found that long-term symptoms associated with COVID-19 infection spanned multiple organ systems. Additionally, the research findings pointed that long COVID was more common and severe in study participants infected before the 2021 Omicron variant.

The RECOVER observational cohort will continue for several more years, but noteworthy is that clinical trials testing various interventions to potentially treat long COVID symptoms recently began enrollment. Additional information on these trials can be found here.