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New national study into the neurological impact of COVID-19

Hand shows the brain in the sun and sky

Researchers from the University of Liverpool and King’s College London have been given £2.3 million to investigate the neurological and neuropsychiatric effects of COVID-19.

The funding has been awarded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Department of Health and Social Care through the UKRI-National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) COVID-19 rapid response rolling call.

800 UK patients

The COVID-19 Clinical Neuroscience Study (COVID-CNS) will look at 800 UK patients who were admitted to hospital with COVID-19 and had neurological or neuropsychiatric complications, to understand how these problems occur and develop strategies to prevent and treat them.

The project involves more than a dozen research centres from all four nations of the UK and is being led by the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections at the University of Liverpool in collaboration with King’s College London.

The study is working in collaboration with the previously UKRI-funded:

Lifelong consequences

Project co-lead, Dr Benedict Michael, Senior Clinician Scientist Fellow at the University of Liverpool and Consultant Neurologist at The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust, said:

COVID-19 patients frequently suffer brain complications during the infection and are left with brain injuries that can have lifelong consequences. Similar problems have been seen in previous pandemics, including Spanish influenza over 100 years ago, but how and why this occurs remains poorly understood.

Without understanding how the virus causes these problems, we are not able to know which existing medications to use or to develop new medications to treat these neurological effects.

We’re going to look at cases in detail, exploring clinical data, and laboratory and imaging markers of brain inflammation and injury.

Design better treatments

Project co-lead Professor Gerome Breen, Professor of Psychiatric Genetics at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, said:

These brain complications of severe COVID-19 infection could cause long term problems for patients and their families.

We want to compare patients with these complications to similarly ill hospitalised patients who did not have these problems.

We will monitor their outcomes and integrate social and environmental risk factors into our analyses alongside all the biology information we will measure.

This project brings together scientists and clinicians in all four UK nations, across neurology, psychiatry, genetics, epidemiology and immunology. By working together, we aim to rapidly improve our understanding and design better treatments.

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