Experts call for focus in funding long Covid research

·3-min read

Research should focus on diseases of the airways to help patients with long Covid, experts have said.

International bodies and governments are being advised of the research priorities which have been identified to address the long-term effects of coronavirus in airways diseases.

This includes conditions such as in cystic fibrosis, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Professor Tony De Soyza, professor of pulmonary medicine at Newcastle University, who led the research on behalf of the International Group of Airways Diseases, said: “The challenges of long Covid cannot be understated – this is an entirely new disease which we need to understand better so we can treat better.”

Symptoms of the condition can include extreme tiredness, shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness, and range from joint pain to depression and anxiety.

The international team adapted the established Child Health and Nutrition Research Initiative (CHNRI) method to set research priorities.

This uses the principle of crowdsourcing to independently generate research ideas from a large group of experts and score these against a predefined set of criteria.

They also considered patients’ views.

Prof De Soyza, who is also an honorary consultant physician at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This international and patient-focused roadmap must help direct research efforts.

“As this is unknown territory, it is really helpful that we now know what the key areas are to focus on from an international and patient perspective.”

The top five priorities for patients and the research community included understanding if the severity of Covid-19 as an inpatient was linked to poorer recovery after discharge.

Understanding whether those with airways diseases had worse problems long-term as compared to those who did not have airway problems was also listed in the top five.

They further included finding out how often complications such as heart attacks or stroke occurred after suffering from acute Covid, identifying which patients with acute Covid were likely to be readmitted to hospital and developing tools to help monitor patients’ symptoms at home.

The full list of 20 priorities are set out in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

The work was funded by Health Data Research UK BREATHE Hub, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Medical Research Council (MRC).

Dr Samantha Walker, Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation director of research and innovation, said: “We’re really pleased that these research priorities, which will guide the direction of future research into the long-term effects of Covid-19 on respiratory diseases, have been developed with patient needs at their heart.

“Far too often the hugely valuable lived experiences of patients have been peripheral or absent.

“By embedding the needs of those living with long Covid into the very structure of the research questions, people across the globe will benefit from this effort to deepen our understanding of the impact of Covid-19 and help improve the range and effectiveness of treatments in years to come.”

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