Stanford Medicine researchers are expected to receive nearly $15 million over four years from the National Institutes of Health to study long-term patterns of COVID-19-related symptoms, commonly known as long-term COVID.
The Stanford researchers are one of more than 30 research teams participating in the NIH-sponsored RECOVER (Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery) initiative. RECOVER was founded to identify risk factors for long-term COVID, develop strategies to prevent and treat it, and learn why some people experience faster and more complete recovery than others.
The Stanford Medicine site of the initiative will enroll 900 COVID-19 survivors, including those who experience persistent symptoms of initial infection by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease. The participants are followed for four years through annual visits.
Data suggests that between 10% and 30% of people who have had an acute SARS-CoV-2 infection experience symptoms that last for at least a month. Common long-term COVID symptoms include pain, headache, fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, fever, chronic cough, and trouble sleeping. Some survivors, especially those with severe infections, have ongoing lung problems.
Principal investigators at the Stanford Medicine site are Upinder Singh, MD, professor of infectious diseases and geographic medicine and microbiology and immunology; PJ Utz, MD, PhD, professor of immunology and rheumatology; Catherine Blish, MD, PhD, professor of infectious diseases; and Yvonne Maldonado, MD, professor of pediatric infectious diseases and epidemiology and public health, as well as Taube Professor of Global Health and Infectious Diseases. Other staff members within Stanford Medicine include the Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics departments.
The RECOVER initiative, Singh said, is designed to better understand the incidence, prevalence and pathophysiology of long-term COVID in the hopes of finding ways to treat and prevent the syndrome.
“It has been clearly shown that even people with initially mild COVID symptoms can get COVID for a long time,” Singh said. “We hope to find out why.”