Pennington Biomedical researchers partner on award-winning long COVID study

Dr. John Kirwan, Executive Director of Pennington Biomedical Research Center, is serving as a co-principal investigator on the Pathobiology in RECOVER of Metabolic and Immune Systems, or PROMIS, study. The study has been awarded more than $802,000 by the National Institutes of Health to identify potential causes of Long COVID.

"The PROMIS study will help us better understand what is driving Long COVID," Dr. Kirwan said. "In the early days of the pandemic, Pennington Biomedical directed its resources to address the urgent health needs of our population. Now with estimates that more than 25 percent of people in the U.S. who had COVID have experienced Long COVID at some point, there is a need for Pennington Biomedical scientists to find the causes and potential cures of this debilitating syndrome. It is well known, for example, that those with diabetes and obesity are at a higher risk for Long COVID. Following our mission, this is one more reason for Pennington Biomedical to pursue measures in treating these chronic diseases as well."

Researchers from Pennington Biomedical, MaineHealth and the University of Kentucky are exploring the idea that COVID19 causes inflammation which stresses the immune systems to the point of triggering secondary complications such as fatigue, weakness, brain fog, and headaches among others. If proven, scientists can develop treatments to enhance immune function in patients with symptoms of Long COVID.

The study is part of the nationwide RECOVER initiative that seeks to understand and find treatments for Long COVID, as the causes of Long COVID are still unknown.

Long COVID is a term used to describe symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath and sleep issues well after the initial phase of infection from COVID. Long COVID occurs more often in people who had sever COVID-19 illness, but anyone who has been infected with the virus can experience it. Up to 30 percent of people infected with Covid experience symptoms lasting at least a month, according to an estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some of Dr. Kirwan's other colleagues at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Stanford University, and the University of Oregon will analyze blood and tissue samples to see if the virus is still present in patients with Long Covid. They will also find out whether the virus is generating substances that can prompt the immune system to cause fatigue, brain fog and other COVID symptoms.

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