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MaineHealth awarded $1.5 million by the National Institutes of Health to study long COVID

November 01, 2021

MaineHealth’s Maine Medical Center Research Institute was chosen as one of more than 30 institutions across the country to participate in the nationwide NIH Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) Initiative.

PORTLAND, MaineMaineHealth is projected to receive $1.5 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for up to four years to participate in a nationwide study of the long-term effects of COVID-19. Researchers from the Maine Medical Center Research Institute (MMCRI) will be among those at more than 30 institutions across the country participating in the NIH Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) Initiative. The grant comes to MaineHealth as a sub-award from West Virginia University (WVU), a partner site. WVU and MaineHealth are leading an 11-site consortium across the country that will enroll patients in the study, with a focus on rural and underserved communities.

NIH launched the RECOVER Initiative to learn why some people have prolonged symptoms (referred to as “long COVID”) or develop new or returning symptoms after the acute phase of infection from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The most common symptoms include pain, headaches, fatigue, “brain fog”, shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, fever, chronic cough and sleep problems.

“While it’s clear that many patients continue to suffer COVID symptoms for months after recovery, we still don’t know why,” said Ivette Emery, Ph.D., translational scientist at MMCRI and co-Investigator for the MaineHealth RECOVER site. “This study hopes to answer that question and find some ways to bring relief to those experiencing long COVID.”

Dr. Clifford J Rosen, MD
Clifford Rosen, MD
The team at MMCRI will be enrolling approximately 90 adult patients from across the MaineHealth service area in the study. One cohort will be patients with a recent COVID-19 infection, a second group will be patients with a past history of COVID who may or may not continue to have symptoms, and the third cohort will be composed of healthy volunteers. Researchers will examine data including clinical information, laboratory tests and other analyses. They will try to narrow in on risk and resiliency factors for long COVID as well as the impact the Alpha and Delta variants of the virus had on prevalence of the disease.

“The RECOVER initiative aims to study long COVID across a diverse cross-section of the population, and it’s important that Maine’s rural, older population is represented,” said Cliff Rosen, MD, Director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Research at MMCRI and Principal Investigator for the MaineHealth RECOVER site. “Together, with researchers across the country, we hope to make a significant contribution to the science of how those suffering from long COVID can get their lives back.”

While the work at MMCRI will focus on the adult population, other RECOVER sites will enroll pediatric and pregnant participants, too. The RECOVER Initiative is funded for four years, though the size of the study could allow for some preliminary findings within just a few months.

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About Maine Medical Center
Maine Medical Center (MMC), recognized as a Best Regional Hospital by U.S. News and World Report for 2021-2022, is a complete health care resource for the people of Greater Portland and the entire state, as well as northern New England. Incorporated in 1868, MMC is the state’s largest medical center, licensed for 637 beds and employing more than 9,600 people. MMC's unique role as both a community hospital and a referral center requires an unparalleled depth and breadth of services, including an active educational program and a world-class biomedical research center. As a nonprofit institution, Maine Medical Center provides nearly 23 percent of all the charity care delivered in Maine. MMC is part of the MaineHealth system, a growing family of health care services in northern New England. For more information, visit www.mmc.org.

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