MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Researchers at the West Virginia Clinical and Translation Science Institute at West Virginia University are helping lead the way for understanding long-term COVID symptoms.

Long-term COVID symptoms continue or even begin after the initial virus infection or post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC) include headaches, fatigue, “brain fog,” shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, fever, chronic cough and problems with sleep.

To better understand the long-term effects of COVID-19, researchers at the WVCTSI are engaging underserved populations that are traditionally underrepresented in clinical studies.

Dr. Sally Hodder (WVU Photo)

Dr. Sally Hodder, director of the Institute and associate vice president for clinical and translational science at WVU, said this variety of demographics will help paint a more inclusive picture when it comes to those experiencing PASC.

Hodder, along with Dr. Clifford Rosen from the Maine Medical Center Research Institute, created the IDeA States Consortium for Clinical Research (ISCORE). ISCORE is a network of research centers that spans across the U.S. and serves multiple, diverse populations including rural, African American/Black, American Indian, Latinx, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander. Hodder also said that many of the ISCORE sites are in areas that have seen some of the highest COVID infection rates.

Hodder said she hopes West Virginia being at the forefront of a national effort to better understand PASC will lead to improved outcomes for COVID patients, returning them to their pre-COVID levels of function. According to WVU Today, West Virginia’s involvement is now more important than ever given recent high infection rates.

WVCTSI is one of 15 centers chosen to lead the study of PASC among adults and serves as the lead for 11 sites in the following states/territories: Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico and West Virginia.

If you’re interested in being part of the study, you can find more information online or by calling 304-581-1751. The ISCORE network is currently seeking participants who have had COVID in the past, tested positive in the past 30 days, people who are experiencing PASC, and individuals who have tested negative for the disease.

Dr. Clay Marsh (WVU Photo) 

“As effective treatments have been developed for acute COVID-19, we are just beginning to appreciate the breadth of post-COVID symptoms and advance the science so that effective treatments for this disabling complication of COVID may be developed,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, WVU vice president and executive dean for Health Sciences.

Dr. Rebecca Reece (WVU Photo)

“As an infectious disease provider at WVU, I’ve cared for many patients who are suffering with PASC and the most frustrating aspect for them and their families is the lack of knowledge we have to explain why this has happened to them,” RECOVER WVU co-investigator Dr. Rebecca Reece said. “We cannot only focus on acute infection but must also support research into fully understanding the extent of PASC and its impact on individuals as this condition prevents our patients from returning to their normal lives. RECOVER is a study that will provide much needed knowledge on the whole-body picture and impact of PASC.” 

This effort is part of the National Institutes of Health Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery initiative. The RECOVER cohort will study tens of thousands of participants nationwide over four years to understand PASC incidence and spectrum of clinical symptoms, and to define the biologic mechanisms underlying PASC.  In addition to adult participants, other sites will enroll pediatric and pregnant participants while still others will study tissue from individuals who have died.