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UNMC and Nebraskans to have role in national $450 million study of COVID long-term impact

By: - June 20, 2022 3:00 pm

A model of COVID-19, known as coronavirus (Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)

The University of Nebraska Medical Center is participating in a $450 million national grant that will study roughly 40,000 adults and children across the country to gain a better grip on the full scope of post-COVID symptoms.

The goal of the four-year research project, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is to improve treatment and health outcomes.

Among questions to be explored: How many Americans have long-term effects from COVID? What are their symptoms and effects on the body? 

As many as 60% of people nationwide have been infected with COVID, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Understanding  post-COVID

“It’s important that we understand what post-COVID looks like. It will help us understand the future of American health care, since most Americans have had it,” said David Warren, assistant professor in the UNMC Department of Neurological Sciences and co-principal investigator of the research study.

David Warren
David Warren, assistant professor in the UNMC Department of Neurological Sciences, is co-principal investigator of the RECOVER research study. (Courtesy of UNMC)

Warren, working with co-principal investigator Dr. Andrew Vasey, said much disagreement exists over long-term side effects of COVID.  He said UNMC, which is working with other medical teams nationally, is excited to contribute to the learning effort that ensures Nebraskans will be represented.

UNMC hopes to enroll 85 participants by fall. The medical center is participating in both the adult and pediatric arms of the study dubbed RECOVER (Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery).

The full adult arm consortium is led by West Virginia University and is to enroll about 17,700 adults, including about 15,000 who have had COVID and about 2,700 who have not. Some will be pregnant.

Adults to infants to be studied

Children from infants to 18 years old, as well as those up to 25 years old who still see pediatric providers, also are eligible to participate in the study. UNMC is one of 14 sites in the pediatric consortium led by the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute.

Dr. Andrew Vasey
Dr. Andrew Vasey is co-principal investigator of a national study including UNMC on long-term effects of COVID. (Courtesy of UNMC)

“We don’t know the long-term effects of COVID-19 on children’s health and development,” said Dr. Russell McCulloh, associate professor of pediatrics at UNMC who is principal investigator for the pediatric portion of the study. “We know that many children suffer persistent symptoms from COVID-19 that can last weeks or months, in addition to those who have suffered severe acute illness from multi-system inflammatory syndrome.”

McCulloh also is division chief for pediatric hospital medicine at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center.

Participants tapped for the research could be asked to make two to four visits a year during the study period lasting up to four years, according to a UNMC statement. They could be asked for information about health, symptoms, physical activity and sleep between visits as well as getting a medical checkup. In some cases, they may be eligible to receive medical tests.

No treatment is to be provided for the post-COVID syndrome as part of RECOVER, but the research team might follow up with participants’ physicians about test results or opportunities for other post-COVID research.

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Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics. She has won awards from organizations including Great Plains Journalism, the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW) and the Associated Press. Cindy has been recognized by various nonprofits for community contributions and diversity efforts. She chairs the board that oversees the local university’s student newspaper.

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