Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego have joined a nationwide study to better understand the long-term impact of COVID-19 on patients in the United States across all demographic groups.
The $1.15 billion, four-year study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is called the RECOVER Initiative (Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery). The purpose is to better understand “post-acute sequelae of the SARS-CoV-2” infections or PASC, more commonly known as ‘long-COVID.’”
Long-COVID refers to symptoms that persist for weeks or months after acute COVID-19 infection. Symptoms include pain, headaches, fatigue, “brain fog,” shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, fever, chronic cough, and sleep problems. In some affected children and adults, PASC includes multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C and MIS-A), a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs. Any of these symptoms can have a profound impact on quality of life.
More than 90 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the United States since the pandemic began in early 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The incidence of long-COVID is not precisely known, but current data suggests 10 to 30 percent of those who have an acute infection will experience persistent symptoms lasting at least one month. Preliminary data suggests PASC may disproportionately affect certain socioeconomic and demographic groups, including groups that will be represented within the UC San Diego/Rady study.
“We are excited to be a part of this national effort to learn more about long-COVID and the factors that put someone at risk for developing this condition,” said Kelan Tantisira, MD, professor and chief of the Division of Respiratory Medicine at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego.
“Our goal is to better understand the disease so we can develop effective treatments and prevention strategies for the community,” added Kyung (Kay) Rhee, MD, professor and chief of the Division of Child and Community Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine and the Department of Pediatrics at Rady Children’s.
More than 30 research teams across the country will be supported by over $448 million in funding from the NIH. The teams will study and share data in real time, providing the scale necessary to develop information and answers as quickly as possible.
The primary pediatric cohort study at UC San Diego/Rady is called PEDS-PASS (Pediatric Epidemiology and Disparities Study of Post-Acute SARS-CoV-2).
As part of RECOVER, PEDS-PASS will evaluate how often long-COVID occurs within the community following acute infection and follow the natural history of and risk factors for PASC over several years in newborns, children and young adults. Patients with or without SARS-CoV-2 infection will be enrolled into this study, and patients with varying stages of long-COVID will participate in long-term follow-up to better understand the disease process.
The national study may enroll up to 20,000 participants, with or without a history of SARS-CoV-2 infection, plus up to 20,000 caregivers. The study will include 800 children with MIS-C and 200 children and young adults with history of post-COVID vaccine-associated myocarditis or inflammation of the heart muscle.
The RECOVER consortium represents and supports more than 100 researchers leading studies on long-COVID at more than 200 sites across the country, including UC San Diego. NYU Langone Health serves as the clinical science core and study administrator.