Yale Receives Grant to Fund Long COVID Research

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The PolyBio Research Foundation awarded the Yale School of Medicine and its Center for Infection & Immunity (CII) a $575,000 grant to fund Long COVID Research. The grant will support a collaboration to define mechanisms by which SARS-CoV-2 can persist for long periods of time in tissue and blood.

There is growing evidence that SARS-CoV-2 may not fully clear from Long COVID patients after initial infection. Instead, reservoirs of the virus can persist in patient tissue for months or even years, with recent research finding the SARS-CoV-2 virus in gut tissue more than 600 days after infection.

Persistent viral RNA or proteins have also been identified in blood samples collected from Long COVID patients, but the exact nature of the viral RNA that gives rise to this prolonged infection remains unclear.

Team will analyze tissue samples

Yale School of Medicine scientists will analyze Long COVID tissue samples to uncover mechanisms by which the virus or its proteins persist. The team will also use mouse models to test therapeutics including antivirals, antisense oligonucleotides, and innate immune stimuli such as stem-loop RNA for their potential to eliminate persistent virus, which could ultimately inform Long COVID clinical trials.

This new grant builds on an existing collaboration between PolyBio and Yale through CII, which Akiko Iwasaki, PhD, heads. Iwasaki is the Yale Sterling Professor of Immunobiology and professor of dermatology; of molecular, cellular and developmental biology; and of epidemiology; and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Iwasaki and CII have been working to characterize the activity of human endogenous retroviruses in patients with Long COVID.

“Our hope is that by studying viral RNA persistence in Long COVID, we can better understand the pathogenesis and treatment of other related debilitating chronic conditions,” says Iwasaki.

Persistent RNA virus infection, including with enteroviruses, has been implicated in chronic conditions such as myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), which also is a subject of ongoing research by Iwasaki as well as other scientists.

See also related GEN story: “Leaky Blood Vessels in Brain Linked to Brain Fog in Long COVID Patients.”

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