COVID-19 can be harsh on our organs. Now, a significant grant aims to prevent serious consequences
Most of the Danish population has been infected with COVID-19, and several studies indicate that the infection may impact the functioning of our organs. Horizon Europe is now providing 67.6 million DKK to prevent serious consequences after COVID-19.
Perhaps you can recall the feeling – becoming quickly breathless, experiencing lung pain, and having a lingering cough. Many of us fell ill with COVID-19 during the pandemic or in the past couple of years.
But what are the long-term implications? This is what a new research project, focusing on the body's vital organs, aims to explore. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have received 67.6 million DKK from Horizon Europe for the project named "POINT."
Associate Professor at the Department of Biomedical Sciences Claus Desler is leading the project.
"Several research articles show that up to 70% of those who have had COVID-19 unfortunately experience a decline in organ functionality months and years after the COVID-19 infection. For most, it has no impact. The body has enough resilience to avoid illness, and gradually, the organs will regain their functionality. But for some, it's a more significant problem," he says.
These are individuals already vulnerable, and the result of having been infected with COVID-19 could be the development of a chronic disease that they might have otherwise avoided. It could also mean that the chronic condition develops 10 or 20 years earlier than it otherwise would.
The researchers in the project are focusing on kidney diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and lung diseases.
"We need to understand if there is an aftermath following the COVID-19 pandemic, and if, as a result, we risk a significantly higher number of people developing a chronic disease in the immediate future. It will have a colossal impact, both for individuals in terms of significantly reduced quality of life and economically for society, where an overrepresentation of these diseases will strain resources in healthcare systems across Europe," says Claus Desler.
Easing pressure on healthcare in the future is exactly what the research project aims to prevent. If the mechanism responsible for the aftermath can be identified, it will be possible to recognize those individuals who, due to COVID-19, suddenly have a much higher risk of developing a chronic disease.
"Right now, we need to understand the mechanisms to find biomarkers that can help doctors and other healthcare professionals identify who is at risk of developing a disease or developing a disease prematurely. Doctors and hospitals need a toolbox so that we can give people as many disease-free years as possible. It is a benefit for both patients and the healthcare system," he says.
Researchers are studying the aftermath of COVID-19 because they can examine a specific infectious disease that many have had as a phenomenon. This provides a better opportunity to understand the aftermath of other infectious diseases, such as influenza.
Associate Professor Claus Desler
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Journalist and Press Consultant Sascha Kael Rasmussen
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