Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek explains:
“The pandemic is not over yet. The figures and statistics we receive daily from the Robert Koch Institute show that the disease continues to spread, especially in the younger age groups. I am particularly concerned about the long-term consequences of an illness. Many COVID-19 patients still suffer from symptoms weeks or months later – regardless of the severity of the course of the disease. Being able to provide these people with the best possible care remains a challenge for doctors and, in a special way, for science. This makes it all the more urgent for us to need well-founded insights into how people can be helped in the best possible way. I am therefore very pleased that ten research projects can now be launched that examine the topic of long-COVID from different perspectives. Some of these projects analyze the molecular changes caused by the observed symptoms in order to find starting points for effective therapies. In other projects, promising treatment approaches are already being tested, such as drug therapies, occupational therapy or an individually tailored exercise program. Still other projects aim to characterize the specific care needs of certain patient groups – be it children and adolescents, in the psychosocial field or in rehabilitation – more precisely and thus to be able to tailor future services even better. One thing is certain: Reliable findings on the frequency, duration and treatment of long-COVID are still lacking. That is why it is important that we provide targeted support to health research in Germany in this area. To this end, the funding measure initiated by my House is another essential building block. And I can promise one thing: If further research has to be carried out after the end of the projects, the BMBF will keep an eye on this.”
There is still no clear universal definition that describes long COVID or post-COVID syndrome. It is estimated that around 10 percent of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 experience long-term symptoms that can last for several weeks or months (“long Covid” or “post-Covid syndrome”). The most common late symptoms include extreme fatigue, headaches, lack of concentration, shortness of breath and loss of the sense of smell and taste.
Gaining reliable insights into these late symptoms is the subject of the “Guideline for the Promotion of Research Projects on Late Symptoms of Covid-19 (Long-Covid)” published on 31 May.
The funding guideline is primarily aimed at interdisciplinary research networks that already have access to patients, data and samples. Of particular importance are research projects on outpatient care, rehabilitation and care and the cooperation of specialized long-Covid outpatient clinics and primary care.
The projects now selected will be funded for a period of usually up to two years. Originally, a funding amount of 5 million euros was planned; this sum was increased to 6.5 million euros.
Brief information on the funded projects
Source: Press release Federal Ministry of Education and Research of 23.09.2021