Long COVID sufferers to benefit from £19.6 million research investment

July 22, 2021


£19.6 million has been announced for new research into the diagnosis and treatment of long COVID. 

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is awarding almost £20 million to 15 research studies across Britain to improve the understanding of long COVID, from diagnosis and treatment through to rehabilitation and recovery. 

The projects were funded following a UK-wide research call for ambitious and comprehensive research into understanding and addressing the longer-term physical and mental health effects of COVID-19 in non-hospitalised people.

Previous research from the NIHR and UK Research and Innovation show that up to one in three people diagnosed with Covid continue to experience chronic symptoms for months after their initial diagnosis.

The new research projects will allow researchers across the UK to draw together their expertise from analysing long COVID among those suffering long-term effects and the health and care professionals supporting them.

Among the projects will be the largest long Covid trial to date, recruiting more than 4,500 people with the condition to test the effectiveness of existing drugs on treating the lasting symptoms.

“It’s critical to determine how many patients with long COVID and breathlessness have damaged lungs, and if and how long it takes for their lungs to recover.  The EXPLAIN (HypErpolarised Xenon Magnetic Resonance PuLmonary Imaging in PAtIeNts with Long-COVID) project will seek to diagnose ongoing breathlessness in patients with prior COVID-19 infection who were not admitted to hospital. MRI scans will be used to trace inhaled xenon gas moving into and out of the lungs, which will assess disease severity and whether breathlessness improves over time. 

“Earlier work using hyperpolarised xenon MRI on hospitalised patients showed that, even when all other tests were normal,  their lungs may be damaged. Hyperpolarised xenon MRI takes a few minutes and does not require radiation exposure, so it may be repeated over time to see lung changes.”

Professor Fergus Gleeson, CMO of NCIMI

“Long Covid can have serious and debilitating long term effects for thousands of people across the UK which can make daily life extremely challenging, This new research is absolutely essential to improve diagnosis and treatments and will be life-changing for those who are battling long-term symptoms of the virus. It will build on our existing support, with over 80 long Covid assessment services open across England as part of a £100 million expansion of care for those suffering from the condition, and over £50 million invested in research to better understand the lasting effects of this condition.”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid 

Press coverage

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PA via Oxford Mail

Long Covid sufferers to benefit from £19.6 million research investment

PA and ITV News

Funding boost of nearly £20 billion for research into long Covid | ITV News