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Cardiff University awarded major funding to research long Covid

19 July 2021

Cardiff University has been awarded funding of nearly £2m to carry out research into two crucial aspects of long Covid.

Researchers will look at the role of the immune system in long-term disease and a separate study will focus on the rehabilitation of individuals with long Covid.

The projects are among 15 in the UK to receive total funding of nearly £20m from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to help tackle long Covid, which covers a range of long-lasting symptoms, including fatigue, breathlessness, chest pain, “brain fog” and muscle pain. It is not yet fully understood and the true scale of the problem is unknown – but the latest estimates suggest nearly a million people are living with the condition in the UK.

Cardiff researchers have been awarded more than £1m to devise a personalised self-management programme for individuals with long Covid. The project, called LISTEN, is being jointly led by Professor Monica Busse at Cardiff University’s Centre for Trials Research and Professor Fiona Jones, an expert in rehabilitation research at St George’s University of London and Kingston University, in partnership with the Bridges Self-Management social enterprise.

The project will take two years and aims to produce a personalised self-management programme, including a book, digital resources and new training package for rehabilitation practitioners. The new programme will be tested in a trial that will recruit individuals with long Covid from across Wales, London and the East of England.

“Our project will focus on navigating life after long Covid where the variety of problems and uncertainty around how to manage creates real struggles for those affected individuals,” said Professor Busse, director for Mind, Brain and Neuroscience trials at Cardiff University.

“We hope our work will lead to new models of care being available in the NHS for the benefit of those living with long Covid across the UK.”

The second study, led by Professor David Price from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, aims to investigate whether overactive or dysfunctional immune responses could drive long-lasting disease by causing widespread inflammation in the body.

The researchers hope to develop new tests and treatments by assessing how the immune system functions – and how much the causative virus persists – in people with long Covid.

The NIHR said the 15 studies would draw on the experience and insights of patients and healthcare workers to investigate treatments, services and diagnostics for long Covid.

The projects will help identify the causes, evaluate the effectiveness of different care services, and identify effective interventions – such as drugs, rehabilitation and recovery – to treat people suffering from chronic symptoms and help them return to their daily lives.

Professor Nick Lemoine, Chair of NIHR’s long Covid funding committee and Medical Director of the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN), said: “This package of research will provide much needed hope to people with long-term health problems after Covid-19, accelerating development of new ways to diagnose and treat long Covid, as well as how to configure healthcare services to provide the absolute best care.”

The rehabilitation study will work closely with the Wales Covid-19 Evidence Centre and PRIME Centre Wales, along with Lincoln University, King’s College London, Swansea University and Diversity and Ability, a disabled-led social enterprise supporting organisations and social justice projects to create inclusive cultures.