COVID-19: Paradoxical, Enigmatic and Relentless
Feb 26, 2021 Cedars-Sinai Staff
For some patients, prolonged illness and serious complications have revealed the relentless nature of COVID-19.
These COVID-19 survivors experience debilitating symptoms for months rather than days or weeks. They report fatigue, mental fog, headaches, muscle pain and shortness of breath. Some face critical health threats related to damage in major organs, including the heart, brain, kidneys, lungs and liver.
Early in the pandemic, it became alarmingly clear that COVID-19 is very different from the flu, says Susan Cheng, MD, MMSc, MPH, director of Public Health Research at the Smidt Heart Institute. “This is a multi-organ disease that is hard to predict,” she says. “We’re dealing with a very paradoxical and enigmatic infectious viral agent.”
“This is a multi-organ disease that is hard to predict. We’re dealing with a very paradoxical and enigmatic infectious viral agent.”
Cheng is founding principal investigator of the Coronavirus Risk Associations and Longitudinal Evaluation (CORALE), which has brought together more than 100 scientists at Cedars-Sinai and other institutions to investigate the mysteries of COVID-19 and create paths to effective prevention and treatment.
Cheng, the Erika J. Glazer Chair in Women’s Cardiovascular Health and Population Science, says the study includes long-term follow-up with COVID-19 patients. Investigators are collecting data to evaluate heart, lung and cognitive function as well as immune inflammatory responses and overall physical recovery.
“We hope to identify what drives differences in how people recover,” Cheng says. Factors such as preexisting traits, the way patients were exposed to the virus and the treatment they received could have an impact on how long it takes to recover and whether the virus triggers chronic health issues.
Cedars-Sinai has also launched the COVID-19 Recovery Program to meet the needs of a growing number of COVID-19 patients who experience lingering symptoms weeks and even months after physicians say they are virus-free.
In the multidisciplinary program, patients receive a comprehensive in-person evaluation with an expert in infectious diseases or pulmonary medicine who can refer them to a network of specialists including cardiologists, pulmonologists, neurologists and psychiatrists. Patients also can gain access to clinical research trials and contribute to a deeper understanding of the long-term health effects of COVID-19.