Long-Covid, or post-acute Covid-19, is a colloquial term used to describe patients reporting persistent symptoms and illness for longer periods than are expected, despite receiving clinical treatment. It is estimated that more than 100 million people worldwide have experienced lingering health concerns or are still reporting problems following a Covid-19 infection, creating an unprecedented demand for healthcare services around the world.
To support the implementation of the pathways needed to meet this growing demand, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Derby, King’s College London, University of Illinois in Chicago (USA) and Ramaiah Medical College (India) are collaborating with neighbouring clinical organisations to conduct an international Covid-19 recovery trial, sponsored by the NHS Health Authority.
Researchers are working to gather additional insight into the determinants of recovery to better understand the changes in symptomology over time. This work is taking place in some of the countries that have been worst affected by Covid, with research sites now open at the University of Derby, the University of Illinois and the Ramaiah Medical College, with a new site opening at the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University in the coming weeks. The research has been made possible through funding from The Gilead Covid-19: COMMIT™ (Covid-19 unMet Medical needs and associated research extension) programme.
Long-covid is a complex, multi-system disease associated with a broad range of symptoms including fever, fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches, neurocognitive difficulties, muscle pains and weakness, depression, and other mental health conditions.
Each partner institution involved in the study is connected to a local hospital and has a dedicated on site research facility. The 16-week trial profiles the recovery of patients with Covid-19 who have been discharged into the local community from hospitals or referred into long covid centres.
Using a combination of physiological, biological, psychological tests and observations through regular patient visits, remote meetings and patient journals, the study aims to understand more about long-Covid and develop clear support pathways to improve long-term health outcomes and restore quality of life for patients.
Dr Mark Faghy, project lead and Associate Professor at University of Derby, said: “Long-covid has left millions of people unable to do the things they once loved. Everyday activities and work, the things we all probably take for granted, have become much more challenging and this impacts their quality of life drastically.
“With the threat of sustained transmission, infections and future Covid-19 variants, there is an urgent need to support patients with optimised and informed rehabilitation strategies to support them in the post-Covid period and reduce the substantial co-morbidities associated with long-Covid. To date, there is little data that has profiled the time and determinants of a successful recovery in the post-Covid-19 period. Here we have a collaboration between clinical and non-clinical partners that will enable us to share expertise in this field and rethink how we establish the support needed.
“This project will reveal whole patient perspectives that contain multi-method methodologies and objective analysis to document symptom profiles. This will enable us to create tailored mechanisms of support for patients recovering in community settings and give patients suffering with the long-term impact of Covid-19 their quality of life back.”
Dr Tom Maden-Wilkinson, Senior Research Fellow at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “This project builds on some of the excellent work done by the RICOVR team at the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) in developing our understanding into the effect of Covid-19 and, in particular, the long-term effects of Covid-19 infection. This is a really exciting international project that the AWRC is delighted to be a part of, bringing together staff from across the University.
“The work wouldn’t be possible without the long-standing collaboration between Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and Sheffield Hallam University to develop research that makes a positive impact on the lives of people in our city and internationally.”