Urgent need for more research to understand Long Covid

28 October 2020

Long Covid may impose a significant health burden worldwide, according to a new report (PDF) by the Royal Society’s SET-C (Science in Emergencies Tasking: COVID-19) group.

The Long Covid: what is it, and what is needed? report (PDF) concludes that urgent data gathering and more research is needed to better understand who is at risk and why and what the long term impacts might be.

Professor Charles Bangham, Chair of Immunology at Imperial College London and an author of the SET-C report, said: “At the moment we do not even know enough to define what Long Covid is, but it is clear that it can have a severely disabling effect on people of any age. We have to act now to get a better understanding of this condition and raise awareness of the potential threat, particularly for younger people who may believe that Covid is not a threat to them.”

The report highlights the wide ranging and persistent or recurrent symptoms reported by individuals and anecdotal evidence of Long Covid affecting all ages from the very young (under 10 years of age) to the elderly. It calls for rapid progress in establishing large-scale cohort studies with international coordination and collaboration.

Reported symptoms include:

  • severe fatigue 
  • reduced exercise capacity
  • breathlessness
  • chest pain or heaviness
  • fever
  • palpitations
  • cognitive impairment – “brain fog”
  • anosmia
  • vertigo
  • headache
  • metallic or bitter taste
  • skin rash

The Royal Society is grateful to the Leverhulme Trust for its support for the Society’s pandemic response work.