Australian MRFF awards Long COVID grant

Australia has awarded the first Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) grants aimed at improving the lives of people with long Covid. AUS$50million has been committed by the federal government aiming to uncover better evidence on the effective management of long COVID in the Australian community. The initial 12 grants from the Fund have now been awarded and AUS$800,000 invested in the work of Professor Erin Howden of The Baker Heart & Diabetes Institute.

The award will allow Professor Howden to combine MRI scans with direct recordings of sympathetic nerve activity to understand how the brain is regulating blood pressure during stressors like orthostatic challenge and exercise in patients with long Covid, POTS and ME/CFS. The sympathetic nervous system is esssential for preparing the body in ‘fight-or-flight’ responses as it activates numerous complex pathways to enable an adequate response to a threat or trauma. Some of these physical effects include faster breathing, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and redirection of blood flow to important organs (e.g. brain and muscles).

Fatigue, dizziness, tachycardia and brain fog are among the most commonly described symptoms of long Covid. However, these symptoms are also commonly experienced by individuals affected by PoTS and ME/CFS and so the results will be eagerly awaited.

There has been considerable interest concerning the potential overlap between Long Covid , PoTS and ME/CFS, but thus far no detailed investigation of the ways in which the diseases cause changes in the way a persons body works (pathophysiology). Such are the symptom overlaps between the three illnesses that such a study may reveal important results and, as is the aim of the MRFF funding mandate, lead to new treatments for Long Covid.

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