Kirwan (copy)

Dr. John Kirwan, executive director of Pennington Biomedical Research Center

A consortium of Louisiana’s leading biomedical research institutions, headed by the Pennington Biomedical Research Center partnered with LSU and Tulane Health Science Centers in New Orleans, will investigate the mysteries of “long COVID” under a National Institutes of Health award.

The new award is part of the National Institutes of Health’s Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery Initiative, which will enroll 30,000 to 40,000 people over the next 12 to 18 months to examine the post-acute consequences of SARS CoV-2 infection, including long COVID-19.

“Pennington Biomedical, through the Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science Center, is one of 25 research hubs that will study why some people are still sick many months after being infected by the virus and how these lengthy illnesses affect a person’s body,” said John Kirwan, executive director of Pennington and the principal investigator for the LA CaTS Center.

Long COVID is an umbrella term for a wide range of physical and mental health consequences, including shortness of breath and brain fog, that some patients experience after contracting the virus.

As many as 30% of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 experience symptoms lasting at least a month, according to an estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Based on that estimate, more than 200,000 Louisiana residents could be affected by long COVID, as well as millions of people throughout the United States.

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The NIH-funded studies will involve adult, pregnant and pediatric patients and include data on clinical information, laboratory tests and analyses of patients in various stages of recovery after SARS-CoV-2 infection. West Virginia University is the overall lead institution on the award.

“We expect this national-scale study to generate truly meaningful results for patients who are dealing with a broad and complex set of symptoms,” said Dr. Steve Nelson, CaTS Center co-program director and dean of LSU Health New Orleans.

Dr. L. Lee Hamm, LA CaTS Center co-program director and dean of the School of Medicine at Tulane University, said one of the most important results of the study will be creating a national data and specimen resource that will allow researchers worldwide to rapidly understand, treat and prevent long COVID.

Since the COVID-19 public health emergency erupted in 2020, the LA CaTS Center has attracted resources and directed expertise to COVID-19 research. The center’s NIH-backed efforts include COVID-19 testing and awareness programs in underserved Louisiana communities; tracking COVID-19 variants though Louisiana; and participating in the National COVID Cohort Collaborative developing new tools and resources for investigators.