Chansavath Phetsouphanh

MRFF funds Kirby research into long COVID

News | Published on 14 Jun 2024

A research team led by the Kirby Institute’s Dr Chansavath Phetsouphanh has been awarded almost $1m by the Australian Government Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to further investigate the immune profile and impacts of long COVID to inform treatment development for the growing public health challenge. 

Long COVID (known scientifically as ‘post-acute sequalae of COVID-19’) is a globally emerging syndrome of potential major public health significance, as recently acknowledged by the World Health Organization. “People are still living with long COVID symptoms, which can be debilitating, many months and sometimes years on from initial COVID-19 infection. For some people, this has been since the earliest days of the pandemic,” says Dr Phetsouphanh. “But currently, little is known about the underlying pathogenesis of long COVID, especially for those infected with the Omicron variant, and treatment options are therefore very limited.”

The research will build upon internationally unique Australian data by the same research team which details abnormal immunological dysfunction in individuals post SARS-CoV-2 infection. This founding study, called ADAPT, showed for the first time an ongoing, sustained inflammatory response following mild to moderate acute COVID-19 infection, which was not found following infections with other coronaviruses. 

“Our research will use data and samples from ADAPT and other international cohorts (including All Ireland Infectious diseases, AIID cohort), alongside cutting-edge technologies for immunological analysis, to gain insight into what causes the ongoing immune activation and inflammation that is characteristic of long COVID caused by more recent variants of concern,” says Dr Phetsouphanh. “The information we gain from this work should help us to identify potential drivers of long COVID and how to then best target treatment, which will be vital to curbing this growing health challenge.”

Other Kirby Institute Chief Investigators include Scientia Professor Anthony Kelleher, Scientia Professor Gregory Dore, Associate Professor Stuart Turville, Dr Brendan Jacka, Professor Kathy Petoumenos, and Dr Anupriya Aggarwal.

The All-Ireland Infectious Diseases cohort study (AIID Cohort), led by Prof Paddy Mallon (UCD, Dublin, Ireland) was an international collaborator.