First meeting of a new consortium studying Long COVID effects

On June 27th-28th, researchers and company representatives from 6 European countries met together at New Children’s Hospital in Helsinki to kick off a new project to study the long-term effects of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Its primary effects - such as fever and cough - are mainly associated with the infection of the respiratory tract and often quickly go away after the acute phase of infection. However, many people experience various symptoms even several months after the acute phase. These symptoms include fatigue, headaches, muscle pain, loss or distortion of smell, brain fog, memory problems and cognitive dysfunctions. The prevalence of long COVID symptoms can be as high as 40% of those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and the severity of the symptoms can be debilitating for many of those who experience them. Long COVID consortium is a collaborative effort between clinicians, academic researchers and private companies to carry out multidisciplinary investigation of the factors underlying long COVID development and interventions to address it. Clinical data from hundreds of patients across Finland, Switzerland and the Netherlands will be analyzed using advanced machine learning techniques, and biological markers for the disease and for individualized treatment will be outlined as an outcome of the study. The Balistreri lab is a project coordinator for the University of Helsinki-based labs participating in the consortium and carries out mechanistic studies of SARS-CoV-2 infection in neural and non-neural tissue using preclinical models. Together with colleagues from University of Helsinki and University of Zurich, we are going to provide understanding of how molecular and cellular factors play a role in the development of Long COVID. Participants of the Long COVID consortium meeting discussed a road map for the 48-month long project and agreed on the common policies and priorities for the upcoming 6 months. A specific emphasis was placed on the need to involve patients into the project planning and to effectively disseminate knowledge acquired during the study to the general public. The Long COVID project is funded as part of the Horizon Europe programme by the European Union (2022-2026).