Top research priorities for long-term respiratory effects of COVID-19

Infectious diseases

By Selina Wellbelove

31 Aug 2021

The top research priorities for understanding the long-term effects of COVID-19 in the context of airways disease have been outlined by respiratory experts.

The UK PHOSP-COVID consortium, which included several respiratory physicians and scientists, invited over 200 experts to submit research proposals that focused on the long-term consequences of airway disease in patients who had been hospitalised with the virus.

These were filtered down to research ideas which were then scored according to five predefined criteria: answerability, feasibility, timeliness, effect on burden reduction and equity.

Investigating the relationship between prognosis at hospital admission and morbidity at 3 and 12 months in COVID-19 patients who had preexisting airways disease or who developed airways disease after infection was the highest ranked research priority by the consensus group.

Of 20 highest-ranked research ideas, half related to identifying links with or risk factors for developing or deteriorating airways disease in long COVID patients, while the three highest all looked at comparing morbidity after hospital discharge between survivors with and without pre-existing airways disease.

Comparisons of the prevalence and severity of post-COVID-19 fatigue, sarcopenia, anxiety, depression and risk of future cardiovascular complications in patients with and without pre-existing airways disease were also considered high priority to addressing the global burden of long COVID.

Understanding predictors of hospital readmission, developing and validating tools for remote monitoring of symptoms and determining the incidence of and risk factors for new-onset symptomatic obstructive airways disease, were also considered important by the consortium.

The three lowest-ranked research topics included: the private sector’s role in pandemic management, the use of alternative medicine in patients with COVID-19 and pre-existing airways disease, and the risk of developing lung cancer from long COVID.

According to the paper’s authors, the diversity in research topics reflected wide-ranging concerns about the burden of the long term sequelae of COVID-19.

“[The] identification of research priorities to advance understanding of the long-term effects of COVID-19 in the context of airways disease is vital at a time when resources are limited and rapid answers are needed,” they wrote in the paper published in The Lancet

The set of priorities could “inform future research studies and funding decisions”, they concluded.

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