Coordinated research program on long COVID essential, says The Florey

Researchers from The Florey have welcomed a key recommendation in a report into long COVID and repeated COVID infections from The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport.

The report, titled Sick and tired: Casting a long shadow, outlines nine recommendations to improve Australia’s response to long COVID, including a nationally coordinated research program for long COVID and COVID-19.

The inquiry into long COVID and repeated COVID infections received just under 600 submissions from individuals, organisations and government bodies. Professor Kevin Barnham, Head of the Neurotherapeutics Laboratory, led the submission to the inquiry from The Florey, highlighting the pressing need to better understand the neurological impacts of long COVID.

“As researchers, we have concerns around the neurological symptoms being presented, including loss of smell and memory complaints,” says Professor Barnham.

“Approximately 80% of those infected with COVID-19 report neurological dysfunction, and 30% have persistent symptoms. The long-term implications of these neurological symptoms require careful consideration as many of them are known to be associated with increased risk of neurodegeneration or recognised as part of the early symptoms for disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.”

In the Committee’s recommendation it states research programs ‘should span basic science, clinical trials, models of care, health promotion and implementation science’ and ‘should aim to better integrate research by fostering greater collaboration’.

Florey Parkville campus

The Florey’s submission advocated for a ‘collaborative and multidisciplinary approach’ to improve our understanding of the link between long COVID and Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. By improving our understanding, we can better assess the risk of increasing neurodegenerative conditions and plan for future health needs, said Professor Barnham.

“Big questions remain unanswered on long COVID and neurodegeneration. But we know that there are considerable expertise and skills to at several research centres, including The Florey, universities and hospitals that could answer these questions, if brought together in a meaningful way,” added Professor Barnham.

Read The Florey’s inquiry submission (PDF, 215K)