RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — While a majority of people infected with COVID-19 recover in about two weeks, research suggests that survivors are left with long-term lingering side effects from the virus. Long lasting symptoms are referred to as Long COVID and can range mild issues to completely life altering changes.

The National Institutes of Health announced in February that they would be launching a study to better understand these issues. A release from the NIH director said that they will be studying the causes of Long COVID and how to prevent and treat the prolonged virus effects.

The release explains that the variety of long-term side effects is referred to as Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection or PASC.

The NIH received $1.15 billion in funding from congress to research the health consequences of COVID-19. Research opportunities began opening up on Feb. 23 and funding for the projects is expected to last four years.

Broad research questions have been posed to guide the projects, currently the NIH is seeking to answer the following questions:

  • What does the spectrum of recovery from SARS-CoV-2 infection look like across the population?
  • How many people continue to have symptoms of COVID-19, or even develop new symptoms, after acute SARS-CoV-2 infection?
  • What is the underlying biological cause of these prolonged symptoms?
  • What makes some people vulnerable to this but not others?
  • Does SARS-CoV-2 infection trigger changes in the body that increase the risk of other conditions, such as chronic heart or brain disorders?

Right now the NIH plans for research to be conducted by studying a SARS-CoV-2 Recovery Cohort. This cohort will be composed of people engaged in ongoing COVID-19 studies, long-term cohort studies that started before the pandemic and newer studies focusing on COVID long haulers. These people will be monitored to determine their trajectory of symptoms.

NIH plans two complementary studies to go along with the recovery cohort. One is a a study of data from electronic health records and health systems databases. There other will be a study of biological specimens in order to better understand any brain or organ injuries.

In addition to the cohort study, NIH will be building their core resources by gathering more clinical science, data resource and biorepository to help establish standardized data and biological specimens.