« All News & Opportunities

22nd July 2021

Welsh researchers investigating long Covid as part of UK-wide £20 million funding call

Wales COVID-19 Evidence Centre, is contributing to ground-breaking UK projects receiving nearly £20m from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to help tackle long Covid.

Long Covid 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. Researchers across Wales are contributing to four of the 15 studies in the extensive NIHR-funded programme, allowing researchers across the UK to draw together their expertise.

Wales COVID-19 Evidence Centre, created by Health and Care Research Wales on behalf of Welsh Government, is contributing to two key studies in this funding call, LISTEN and LOCOMOTION. These trials both look into long Covid, an evolving multi-system disorder, covering a range of long-lasting symptoms, including fatigue, breathlessness, chest pain, “brain fog” and muscle pain.

Professor Adrian Edwards, Director of the Wales COVID-19 Evidence Centre, said:“The research we’re contributing to covers all four UK nations and addresses the needs of ethnic and socioeconomically diverse populations with a strong emphasis on reducing health inequalities and enabling individuals to return to their normal lives.

“The research is going to deliver the best possible evidence about how services can be designed to meet the needs of all groups of patients with long Covid, enabling Welsh Government to make key decisions on treatments and care.”

The, LISTEN study, will develop and test a personalised self-management programme for individuals with long Covid, which could include a book, digital resources and new training package for rehabilitation practitioners. The two-year programme will be tested in a trial which will recruit individuals with long Covid from across Wales, London and the East of England.

Professor Adrian Edwards and Dr Natalie Joseph-Williams at the Wales COVID-19 Evidence Centre are working with the project leaders, Professor Fiona Jones, an expert in rehabilitation research at St George’s University of London and Kingston University and Professor Monica Busse at Cardiff University’s Centre for Trials Research.

Joint lead researcher on the study, Professor Monica Busse, Director for Mind, Brain and Neuroscience Trials at Cardiff University’s Centre for Trials Research, said: “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.

“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.”

LOCOMOTION, led by Leeds University, will see staff at Llandough hospital, be part of a clinical research consortium and aims to identify and evaluate best practice in clinics across the UK for patients with long Covid. This knowledge will be shared to ensure that all services can be optimised with the most effective innovations adopted throughout the UK.

Dr Helen Davies, Consultant in Respiratory Medicine at Llandough hospital, said: “This is an opportunity for people in Wales with long Covid to be part of research studies that will help to provide the best answers for clinical investigation, treatment and recovery.”

As well as the Wales COVID-19 Evidence Centre, other researchers and members of the Health and Care Research Wales community are contributing to these vital long Covid NIHR funded research projects.

Co-investigators on the CICERO study, Dr Nathan Bray and Dr Zoe Hoare at Bangor University, will look to better understand the nature of ‘cognitive COVID-19’, testing whether neuropsychological rehabilitation can improve the outcomes of people suffering with long Covid. The study is being delivered in partnership with North Wales Organisation for Randomised Trials in Health and Social Care and Centre for Health Economics and Medicines Evaluation.

Dr Nathan Bray, said: “Brain fog has a huge detrimental effect on people’s quality of life, so we are pleased this has been recognised in the funding announcement, and we can continue working towards better understanding the condition and evaluating which treatments are effective.”

Leading the ‘The immunologic and virologic determinants of long COVID’ research, Professor David Price from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine with Dr Helen Davies, hope to develop new tests and stimulate development of future treatments by assessing how the immune system functions – and how much the virus persists.

Kieran Walshe, Director of Health and Care Research Wales said: “Research has been central to dealing with the challenges of the pandemic over the last year, and it’s clear to see the need for a dedicated focus to projects that are tackling the longer-term health challenges of COVID-19.

“At Health and Care Research Wales, we actively promoted and supported this NIHR long Covid funding call, so we are proud to see Welsh researchers making such strong contributions across the funded projects that will help uncover methods of best practice to help those living with long Covid around the world.”