Louisiana Research Institutions Tackle ‘Long COVID’

Scientists Hope to Find Out Why So Many Remain Sick Months After Infection and to Accelerate Prevention and Treatments for COVID-19 Long Haulers

Oct. 29, 2021

For more information, contact Ted Griggs, (225) 288-8840 or ted.griggs@pbrc.edu

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana - A consortium of Louisiana’s leading biomedical research institutions, headed by the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, partnered with LSU Health New Orleans and Tulane University School of Medicine, will investigate the mysteries of “long COVID” under a National Institutes of Health award.

The new award is part of the National Institutes of Health’s Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) Initiative, which will enroll 30,000 to 40,000 people over the next 12 to 18 months to examine the post-acute consequences of SARS CoV-2 infection (PASC) including long COVID. 

“Pennington Biomedical, through the Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science Center, is one of 25 research hubs that will study why some people are still sick many months after being infected by the virus and how these lengthy illnesses affect a person’s body,” said Pennington Biomedical Executive Director John Kirwan, PhD., who is the principal investigator for the LA CaTS Center.  

Long COVID is an umbrella term for a wide range of physical and mental health consequences, including shortness of breath and brain fog, that some patients experience after the virus.  

As many as 30 percent of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 experience symptoms lasting at least a month, according to an estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Based on that estimate, more than 200,000 Louisiana residents could be affected by long COVID, as well as millions of people throughout the United States.

The NIH-funded studies will involve adult, pregnant and pediatric patients and include data on clinical information, laboratory tests and analyses of patients in various stages of recovery after SARS-CoV-2 infection.  West Virginia University is the overall lead institution on the award.

“We expect this national-scale study to generate truly meaningful results for patients who are dealing with a broad and complex set of symptoms,” said Steve Nelson, MD, LA CaTS Center Co-Program Director and Dean of LSU Health New Orleans. 

L. Lee Hamm, MD, LA CaTS Center Co-Program Director and Dean of the School of Medicine at Tulane University, said one of the most important results of the study will be creating a national data and specimen resource that will allow researchers worldwide to rapidly understand, treat and prevent long COVID.

LA CaTS Center collaboration has significantly contributed to building Louisiana’s research capabilities.  Since the COVID-19 public health emergency erupted in 2020, the LA CaTS Center has attracted resources and directed expertise to COVID-19 research.

The center’s NIH-backed efforts include COVID-19 testing and awareness programs in underserved Louisiana communities; tracking COVID-19 variants though Louisiana; and participating in the National COVID Cohort Collaborative developing new tools and resources for investigators.


About the LA CaTS Center
The Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science (LA CaTS) Center combines 10 major Louisiana academic, research and health care delivery institutions into a unified research infrastructure, collectively “addressing health disparities and improving health outcomes in our underserved population with chronic diseases.” The core of the LA CaTS Center comprises three primary collaborating Institutions – Pennington Biomedical Research Center (Lead), LSU Health-New Orleans, Tulane Health Sciences Center—complemented by strong research partners including the Louisiana State University Health in Shreveport, Xavier University of Louisiana, Children’s Hospital of New Orleans, Louisiana State University A&M College, Southeast LA Veterans Health Care System, University Medical Center, Ochsner Health System and LSU Health-NO School of Dentistry.

About the Pennington Biomedical Research Center
The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia.  The Center architected the “Obecity, USA” awareness and advocacy campaign to help solve the obesity epidemic by 2040.  The Center conducts basic, clinical, and population research, and is affiliated with Louisiana State University.  The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes over 480 employees within a network of 40 clinics and research laboratories, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Its scientists and physician/scientists are supported by research trainees, lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and other support personnel.  Pennington Biomedical is located in state-of-the-art research facilities on a 222-acre campus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  For more information, see https://www.pbrc.edu.