News | 2 November 2020

Study to explore risk factors associated with chronic complaints after COVID-19

Researchers at Maastricht UMC+ and Maastricht University are to investigate which factors play a role in long-term health complaints after COVID-19 and which patients may be susceptible to developing chronic complaints. The Maastricht researchers will do so as a partner in the Dutch Precision Medicine for more Oxygen (P402) consortium, made up of hospitals, private parties and patient representatives. The study will be made possible by the Top Sector Life Sciences & Health (Health~Holland Foundation).

Longfoto (copyright: Thijs Rooimans)(copyright: Thijs Rooimans) Many patients who have had COVID-19 continue to suffer health complaints for a long time. The precise long-term consequences are still unclear, however. At present, both patients who have been admitted to hospital with COVID-19 and those who have recovered but reported lingering complaints to their GP are referred to a post-coronavirus clinic, where they undergo laboratory tests, lung function tests and CT scans and complete questionnaires. The P402 consortium's researchers will be adding a number of new tests, specifically in middle-aged patients who visit the clinic approximately 3 and 12 months after the onset of COVID-19.

Detailed mapping
A total of around 100 people from across the Netherlands will participate in the study. The research team will collect additional biological samples from them to gain a better understanding of any differences in the biological response of patients with long-term complaints. They will do so with the aid of various 'omics' measurements, a method that can, for example, map gene regulation, metabolism or bacteria in the body in detail. The team will also identify these patients' exposomes, i.e. environmental and social factors to which people are exposed in everyday life, such as chemicals, air pollution, smoking, diet and physical activity. Participants in the study will be given devices that measure their exposure and physical activity, for example an armband that detects substances in the environment. The researchers will then analyse the data that is collected.

From cell models to big data
The researchers will analyse the CT scans performed as part of standard care for COVID-19 patients using the latest artificial intelligence methods. In addition, participants will be offered an intervention geared towards nutrition and physical activity that is expected to have a beneficial impact on their quality of life. In the laboratory, the team will use experimental cell models to study the factors and mechanisms that predict a more severe course of illness. Big data analysis will help them to identify data patterns that predict which future patients may be prone to developing chronic complaints after recovering from COVID-19.

Maastricht's participation
Dr Rosanne Beijers, Dr Ramon Langen and Prof. Annemie Schols from the department of Pulmonology will be participating on behalf of Maastricht UMC+ and Maastricht University. They will investigate the impact of a personalised lifestyle intervention targeting nutrition and exercise on preventing long-term complaints after a patient is infected with the coronavirus. In addition, they will use experimental cell models to study the underlying mechanisms of the protective effects of nutrition and exercise.

About the consortium
The P4O2-COVID study will be performed by the P4O2 consortium partners. The consortium has its origins in the National Programme for Lung Research, set up by the Netherlands Respiratory Society (NRS) in cooperation with other lung associations, researchers, healthcare professionals, patients and companies to draw more attention to lung diseases and to improve cooperation between lung researchers in the Netherlands. Collaboration with industry will ensure practical application of the knowledge gained through research.
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