Bangor University is playing a key role in a new UK study to help describe how ‘brain-fog’ is experienced by people suffering from long COVID’ and to evaluate a cognitive rehabilitation therapy adapted for this group.
‘Brain fog’ or cognitive impairment is increasingly recognised as a major component of long COVID. Estimates suggest that a quarter to two thirds of all people experiencing long COVID suffer some form of ‘brain fog’.
This impairment impacts on individuals’ quality of life and can experience a range of symptoms. Decisions as seemingly simple as having tea or coffee to drink can throw some individuals, while others can have difficulties with short or long-term memory. The loss of functional ability has major consequences for people who are affected, their families and the wider economy, given people’s difficulty in returning to work.
The research, led by University College London, is one of 15 major studies just announced, which will draw on the experience and insights of patients and healthcare workers to investigate treatments, service delivery and diagnostics for long COVID.
The study is being delivered in partnership with Bangor University’s Clinical Trials Unit, the North Wales Organisation for Randomised Trials in Health and Social Care, (NWORTH) and the University’s Centre for Health Economics and Medicines Evaluation (CHEME). Two Bangor University academics are contributing their expertise to the programme.
Dr Zoë Hoare a Senior Lecturer at the School of Medical & Health Sciences and a Principal Statistician in NWORTH, will be leading the work of the NWORTH team, providing the ‘number crunching’, advising on how the clinical trial should be designed, and analysing all the data.
Dr Hoare explained: “We at NWORTH have a wealth of expertise in running clinical trials and, in particular, in building and managing trials to assess complex cognitive impairments such as dementia. This makes us ideally placed to support the evaluation of this type of intervention in this population. We look forward to working with the other experts and with people experiencing long COVID, to learn more about what is a complex new medical condition and provide information on the effectiveness of possible treatment pathways”
The project will also develop a manual for clinicians which will describe a step by step approach to treating this group helping to identify methods or strategies that can be put in place to manage the symptoms people are experiencing as part of their ‘brain fog’.
Any new support measure or treatment proposed for the health service needs to be assessed for its effectiveness and value.
Dr Nathan Bray, a Senior Lecturer in Preventative Health and Lead for Bangor University's Applied Learning for Preventative Health Academy (ALPHAcademy), is an expert in health economics and will be leading the complex measures to assess the cost-effectiveness of the rehabilitation support packages produced.
Dr Bray said: “The sheer scale of the pandemic makes addressing long COVID one of the top priorities facing healthcare worldwide. The aim is to help people to regain a better quality of life and return to their former activities. The aim of this study is to meet this need and to deliver a treatment plan for affected people which will help them return to normal life and working ability.”
Professor Nick Lemoine, Chair of NIHR’s long COVID funding committee and Medical Director of the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN), said: “This package of research will provide much-needed hope to people with long-term health problems after COVID-19, accelerating the development of new ways to diagnose and treat long COVID, as well as how to configure healthcare services to provide the absolute best care. Together with our earlier round of funding, NIHR has invested millions into research covering the full gamut of causes, mechanisms, diagnosis, cost-effective treatment and rehabilitation of long COVID.”