CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – COVID symptoms are nothing to sneeze at, but what raised an eyebrow with medical professionals in the past couple years is how some patients say they lose their ability to taste or smell for months after recovering. Or, they are plagued with chronic fatigue and brain fog long term. What’s now being called “long COVID” is something that we still don’t know a whole lot about, but researchers at West Virginia University are now seeking to bridge those gaps—particularly in pediatrics.
“There really isn’t a true definition of what [long COVID] is, and there isn’t an understanding of who’s at risk, how long will symptoms last,” explained Dr. Kathryn Moffett, Chief of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Division at WVU.
Those are some of the questions that WVU researchers are hoping to help answer, as well as, how many kids get long COVID? Is there a way to predict if someone is more susceptible to long term symptoms? Could they figure out if different variants are causing long COVID? While researchers aren’t sure that they can get answers to all of those questions, they’re hoping to be able to get close enough with the help of willing participants.
“I think those are all really interesting questions, so I would hope that a kid and their parents would consider participating in adding to our knowledge about something that is really pretty new,” said Dr. Moffett, “We have lots of questions, and hopefully we’ll get some answers.”
The study, called Researching Covid to Enhance Recovery, or RECOVER for short, only requires a blood and saliva test, which can be administered at home. One of the challenges of using children in a study is keeping the experience as least stressful as possible. So, parents will be able to use a new device called a Tasso M20 to collect the blood sample.
The device is designed to be relatively painless. The patient would put the device up to their arm and simply press a button on it to collect the sample. Dr. Moffett said the device and the ability to test in the comfort of their own home makes the test tolerable for children of all ages.
Finally, patients in tier one will fill out a survey. Depending on the symptoms reported, some children may move into tier two of the study, to be determined by what their symptoms are. All of the testing would be free. Dr. Moffett said participants might be able to learn more about the kid through the testing, including antibody status.
Researchers will periodically follow up with the patients over the span of four years. Dr. Moffett encouraged young people of all ages—birth to 25 years—to consider participating. Anyone within that age range is eligible—not just children who have had COVID or people who are vaccinated. In fact, the wider the range, the better scientists can pinpoint changes in patients.
“And, some of those kids are going to get COVID during the study again or their first time, and then it’s an opportunity to study that going forward,” said Dr. Moffett.
The researchers are hoping to enroll at least 100 pediatric patients, and they don’t just have to be from West Virginia. The study is accepting people from the surrounding area—people from Pennsylvania and Maryland, too.
“I think that they should look at it as an opportunity to help science understand more. Kids helping kids,” said Dr. Moffett, “This is the way we learn.”
Parents who are interested in enrolling their child can call 304-293-4453. They can also visit clinicaltrials.gov, search for “RECOVER,” and click on the pediatric trial. The study is confidential, and the patient’s name would not be associated with the results of any testing.