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A major UK research study into the long-term health impacts of COVID-19 on hospitalised patients, involving researchers from the University of Liverpool, has been launched.

The PHOSP-COVID study has been awarded £8.4million jointly by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). This study is one of a number of COVID-19 studies that have been given urgent public health research status by the Department of Health and Social Care.

Led by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, the PHOSP-COVID study will draw on expertise from a consortium of leading researchers, and clinicians from across the UK to assess the impact of COVID-19 on patient health and their recovery. Researchers from the University of Liverpool are members of this consortium.

ISARIC’s members Kenneth Baillie, Calum Semple are collaborating  with Peter Openshaw on this study, hoping to gain a better understanding of long-term health impacts of COVID-19. 

Imperial College, University of Oxford, Liverpool University and the University of Edinburgh are part of this collaborative effort to understand long term effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Around 10,000 patients are expected to take part, making it the largest comprehensive study in the world to understand and improve the health of survivors after hospitalisation from COVID-19.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, said: “As we continue our fight against this global pandemic, we are learning more and more about the impact the disease can have not only on immediate health, but longer-term physical and mental health too.

“This world-leading study is another fantastic contribution from the UK's world-leading life sciences and research sector. It will also help to ensure future treatment can be tailored as much as possible to the person.”

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, said: “As well as the immediate health impacts of the virus it is also important to look at the longer term impacts on health, which may be significant.

“We have rightly focused on mortality, and what the UK can do straight away to protect lives but we should also look at how COVID-19 impacts on the health of people after they have recovered from the immediate disease. This UKRI and NIHR funded study is one of the first steps in doing this.”

Calum Semple, Professor in Child Health and Outbreak Medicine and ISARIC member, said: “Liverpool continues to demonstrate that it has both the skills and expertise in infection health research to make a difference globally. This research with covid-19 survivors builds on our work describing Post-Ebola Syndrome."

“Our involvement in this new study of COVID survivors will  improve our understanding of the long term consequences of this awful disease, with focus on respiratory problems and fatigue. By better understanding the causes of long-term health problems in COVID survivors, rehabilitation programs and therapeutic strategies can be developed.”

Symptoms of COVID-19 have varied among those who have tested positive: some have displayed no symptoms, while others have developed severe pneumonia and sadly even lost their lives. For those who were hospitalised and have since been discharged, it is not yet clear what the medical, psychological and rehabilitation needs for this group of patients will be to enable them to make as full a recovery as possible.

Patients on the study will be assessed using techniques such as advanced imaging, data collection and analysis of blood and lung samples, creating a comprehensive picture of the impact COVID-19 has had on longer term health outcomes across the UK.

The PHOSP-COVID team will then develop trials of new strategies for clinical care, including personalised treatments for groups of patients based on the particular disease characteristics they show as a result of having COVID-19 to improve their long term health.

The PHOSP-COVID study is widely supported across the NIHR infrastructure, including the Translational Research Collaborations for respiratory, mental health, cardiovascular, dementia, and diet, exercise and nutrition, and many of the NIHR Biomedical Research Centres, which are set up to translate lab-based scientific breakthroughs into potential new treatments, diagnostics and medical technologies.

To follow the study as it develops, visit the PHOSP-COVID website.