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U of U researchers part of national team building road map to treat long COVID

Posted at 12:52 PM, May 25, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — A national research team that included scientists from the University of Utah have uncovered new details about "long COVID," which affects those who still experience symptoms months or years after contracting the virus.

They found that long COVID can affect nearly every organ and tissue in the body, with symptoms including fatigue, brain fog, and dizziness.

Also included in the twelve symptoms that set apart those with or without long COVID include post-exertional malaise, gastrointestinal symptoms, heart palpitations, issues with sexual desire or capacity, loss of smell or taste, thirst, chronic cough, chest pain, and abnormal movements.

In all, about 200 symptoms have been identified with patients found to have long COVID.

Researchers found that certain symptoms occurred together, and defined four subgroups or “clusters” with a range of impacts on health.

They also found that long COVID was more common and severe in study participants who were unvaccinated or reinfected.

“This begins to provide us with a roadmap for where to focus areas of future study so that we can better understand what long COVID looks like,” said Dr. Rachel Hess, Associate Vice President for Research at U of U Health and Co-Director of the Utah Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI).

Hess leads the Mountain States PASC Consortium (MSPC), a coalition of five health care systems in Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico.

The study, published in JAMA, is coordinated through the NIH’s Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) initiative, a nationwide effort dedicated to understanding why some people develop long-term symptoms following COVID-19, and how to detect, treat, and prevent it.

To date, more than 100 million Americans have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

As of April 2023, the federal government’s Household Pulse survey estimates that about 6% of those infected with the virus continue to experience long COVID.