It is estimated that one in ten people diagnosed with COVID-19 will have lingering symptoms long after others have fully recovered. COVID-19 patients themselves first coined the phrase “Long COVID”, which is now used to describe any patient still experiencing symptoms four months following infection. Clinicians and researchers around the world have been attempting to catch up to this often debilitating version of the disease, to improve their knowledge and find effective treatments, and St Vincent’s Hospital has been at the forefront of this investigation.
A recent Good Weekend feature article outlined the issues faced by patients, highlighting how little is known about the ongoing effects of COVID and the lack of government funding to support Long COVID research and care. You can read the full article here. Professor Gail Matthews (pictured) is Head of Infectious Diseases at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney and is co-lead of the ADAPT study, an observational study following patients diagnosed with the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) infection over a minimum of one year post-diagnosis. The study collects data on patients’ respiratory and neuro-cognitive function, mental health and well-being. The ADAPT study is one of Australia’s first Long COVID research projects. It was enabled through the generous donations of St Vincent’s Curran Foundation supporters. Prof Matthews said:
“On a worldwide scale, even at a low prevalence, that is potentially tens of millions of people affected. What we don’t know is their trajectory. Will they all be back at work in two years, five years – or will a significant number still be impacted on an economic level, a family level, on what they can contribute to society?”
Through the generosity of Matt Handbury and the Handbury Foundation, a new position to be known as the Handbury Foundation Long COVID Fellow has been established at St Vincent’s Hospital. The Fellow will provide vital hands-on support for the operation of the St Vincent’s Long COVID clinic, increasing its capacity and accelerating development of clinical research, such as the ADAPT study.
St Vincent’s researchers involved in the study found that the most common symptoms patients displayed included persistent fatigue, respiratory symptoms such as persistent cough and shortness of breath, and brain fog. It is believed more than 100 symptoms associated with Long COVID exist.
The St Vincent’s COVID-19 response effort has also included the establishment of the Long COVID Clinic. It provides a setting for multidisciplinary research and experts, including respiratory specialists, immunologists, cardiologists and psychiatrists. We are grateful to the Handbury Foundation and all supporters of our Long COVID research and care programs which are supporting those suffering ongoing symptoms.