UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is funding a new national study into the long-term impacts of lung damage sustained through COVID-19.
The project, which the UKRI will boost with £2 million, will be led by researchers from Imperial College London. It will investigate the effects of scarring and inflammation and aims to ‘develop treatment strategies and prevent disability’.
Named ‘the UK Interstitial Lung Disease Long-COVID19 (UKILD-Long COVID) study’, the project will specifically address questions such as: whether post-COVID-19 lung damage will improve or worsen over time, how long it will last, and the best strategies for developing treatments.
According to the UKRI, people encounter a range of long-lasting symptoms related to lung damage from COVID-19, including breathlessness, coughing, fatigue, limited ability to exercise and difficulty with daily tasks.
The research funding body also states ‘approximately 20% of patients discharged from hospital’ suffer lung damage but admits that the effects on people with long COVID in the community are ‘currently unclear’.
Professor Gisli Jenkins, the study lead at Imperial College London, said: “This is an ambitious study that will help us understand how common and severe the long-term pulmonary consequences of COVID-19 are, and will help us develop new treatment approaches for people suffering from long-term lung inflammation as a result of COVID-19.”
Researchers and clinicians from 15 research centres are expected to collaborate, with patients included who are already participants in existing COVID-19 studies. The UKILD-Long COVID study aims to ultimately recruit around 250 people with different experiences, including those who were hospitalised, placed on a ventilator and others who had less severe COVID-19.
The aim is to find out more about lung damage at three and 12 months-post infection. While some patient subsets will undergo the latest xenon MRI scans, which measure gas exchange in the lungs.
Anyone interested in participating in the study can email UKILDCOVIDSTUDY@imperial.ac.uk.