UK to launch research studies to develop long Covid therapies

The UK Government has announced plans to commence a research programme comprising of 15 new studies to develop new therapies for long Covid and enhance diagnosis.

As per the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance, long Covid is a condition in which signs and symptoms continue or develop after acute Covid-19.

The UK Government will provide funds worth $27.54m (£19.6m) through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to aid researchers to assess long Covid in people with long-term effects.

According to data from NIHR studies reported last month, up to one in three individuals who had Covid-19 report long Covid symptoms.

The new programme will focus on understanding long Covid, assessing the efficacy of various care services and developing effective therapies such as drugs, rehabilitation and recovery to treat chronic symptoms.

In addition, the studies aim to detect and understand the effect of specific long Covid symptoms, including breathlessness, brain fog and a person’s decreased ability to exercise.

UK Health and Social Care secretary Sajid Javid said: “This new research is absolutely essential to improve diagnosis and treatments and will be life-changing for those who are battling long-term symptoms of the virus.”

“It will build on our existing support with over 80 long Covid assessment services open across England as part of a £100m expansion of care for those suffering from the condition and over £50m invested in research to better understand the lasting effects of this condition.”

As part of the programme, the STIMULATE-ICP trial with £6.8m funds will enrol more than 4,500 subjects at University College London.

Said to be the largest long Covid study, STIMULATE-ICP will assess the efficacy of presently used therapies for treating the condition while MRI scans will be analysed for detecting potential organ damage.

Meanwhile, Cardiff University will study the immunologic and virologic determinants of the condition using approximately £800,000 funds.

ReDIRECT trial at the University of Glasgow with nearly £1m funds will analyse if a weight management programme can mitigate disease symptoms in obese patients.

With £3.4m, the University of Leeds will conduct LOCOMOTION trial to detect efficient care that could be used as a gold standard in the UK.

Another project, EXPLAIN, will be carried out at the University of Oxford using £1.8m funds to diagnose ongoing breathlessness in outpatients with Covid-19.

This study will use hyperpolarised xenon MRI to detect airway damage in the lungs or in regions where oxygen enters the bloodstream.

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