Huntington Medical Research Institutes Embarking on In-Depth Study of “Long COVID” Risks 10/28/21
Huntington Medical Research Institutes (HMRI), a world-class Pasadena, Calif.-based biomedical research organization, today presented a review of the increasingly recognized and often disabling syndrome of Post-Acute Sequalae of SARSCoV-2 infection (PASC) also known as “long COVID.” The presentation included a needs assessment and feasibility plan for a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional project to understand the clinical, pathophysiologic, immunologic and organ-specific manifestations of this syndrome.
HMRI, in collaboration with Huntington Hospital’s (Pasadena, Calif.) Long COVID Recovery Clinic, is embarking on a detailed, ongoing study of neurologic and cardiac manifestations of this disease process led by:
1. Robert Kloner, M.D., Ph.D., HMRI Chief Science Officer and Scientific Director of its Cardiovascular Institute, and Professor of Medicine (Clinical Scholar) at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine;
2. Kimberly Shriner, M.D., Fellow of the American College of Physicians (FACP), Infectious Disease Specialist practicing medicine at Huntington Hospital since 1992, Director of the Long COVID Recovery Clinic and Director of Infectious Diseases and Prevention at Huntington Hospital, and HMRI Visiting Scientist; and
3. Yafa Minazad, D.O., Neurology and Neurophysiology Specialist practicing medicine at Huntington Hospital since 2004 and HMRI Visiting Scientist.
During an online Researchers Roundtable presented by HMRI today, Drs. Kloner and Shriner discussed the incidence and constellation of symptoms experienced by individuals with this post-COVID infection syndrome. PASC or long COVID occurs in up to 30 percent of individuals who have experienced infection with SARS-CoV2 infection regardless of the severity of their disease. The cause of this syndrome remains unknown, but the clinical sequelae can be significant for some individuals. Cardiac, neurologic, musculoskeletal, dermatologic and neurocognitive symptoms are common, troubling and occasionally very disabling for patients.
“The clinical, scientific and societal complexities of COVID-19 continue to challenge all communities,” Dr. Shriner said. “Although vaccines, mitigation techniques and social adjustments may help us emerge from this pandemic, some of the long-lasting impacts of this disease are becoming evident.” She added that up to 30 percent of individuals who contract COVID-19 may develop post-acute syndrome of SARSCoV2 infection.
“This mysterious and often debilitating syndrome may have significant long-term consequences for individuals, health care systems and economies,” she noted. “At this date, no one knows the etiology or mechanisms of this constellation of post-COVID symptoms.”
Dr. Kloner cited the results of several long-term cardiac studies showing that post-acute COVID-19 cardiac symptoms can last at least six months.
He summarized: “There is no clear single mechanism that may be responsible for PASC syndrome. The one clear finding is that many of the effects of the active phase of the virus can linger after resolution of infection. The exact frequency remains to be determined. After initial infection, patients may experience persistent symptoms including shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, fatigue and palpitations.
“Moreover, abnormalities in cardiac tests such as the electrocardiogram, echocardiograms and imaging using MRI may be present, MRI imaging may show reduced cardiac function, edema and scarring, and biopsies may show lymphocytic infiltration,” Dr. Kloner elaborated.
Drs. Shriner and Kloner emphasized the need for the medical community to proactively implement organized and deliberate measures to address the myriad challenges posed by the emergence of PASC syndrome in order to avert a potentially overwhelming burden on health care systems.
“PASC syndrome research is one example of how HMRI’s multi-disciplinary studies on the heart, brain and the vascular intersection between the two, combined with its relentless quest to uncover solutions to some of the world’s most daunting health care challenges and find novel ways to diagnose, monitor and treat diseases, are changing outcomes and improving lives,” Dr. Kloner concluded.
HMRI’s PASC syndrome research is funded through local foundation support.