ETSU recruiting participants for COVID-19 ‘long hauler’ study, Ballad Health to use research in treatment

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, (WJHL) – East Tennessee State University researchers are asking people who qualify to sign up for a COVID-19 “long-haul” research study in order to learn more about the long-term effects of the virus.

The “long haul” study requires participants to complete a short survey that documents their ongoing symptoms. They must give a blood sample around every 90 days until they no longer wish to do so, James L. Adkins, clinical research coordinator for ETSU’s Center of Excellence in Inflammation, Infectious Disease and Immunity said.

“So less than 30 minutes of your time is always required to give informed consent to a blood draw, to give a quick self-report, and I wish you well,” he said.

Only certain people are eligible to participate in the study.

“If you’ve had COVID, you get over it, you’re out of quarantine, 90 days later, all of a sudden you have some of the same old symptoms that you went through with your time with COVID the first time, or even new symptoms like brain fog, some people don’t regain that taste or smell some people are having joint pain, shortness of breath, tachycardia, changes in their heart rhythms, changes in their lung, kidney, liver functions, varied aspects to brain degeneration and it’s just a different things in that aspect it’s persistent in the community that needed demand answers.”

He said doctors should be able to learn how to help COVID-19 patients.

“It’s just mind-boggling,” Adkins said. “This virus is absolutely mind-boggling how it affects every single individual person differently.”

Adkins said the study could be a community service.

“It’s affecting their daily lives, their day-to-day lives,” he said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people that they haven’t been back to work yet because they just, they can’t walk up the set of steps to get them to the floor that they worked on or they’ll go up the steps and about pass out because their heart rate’s through the roof. Some people are very upset that they can’t taste their hot cocoa, and sort of they can’t taste their favorite food in the afternoon. So, we’re ultimately looking at the natural immune function, what’s ultimately separating the people that’s experiencing these ongoing symptoms and their symptoms, as opposed to the ones that haven’t.”

There is no limit to the number of people who can apply for the study. As a courtesy, Adkins said participants may request a free copy of their antibody results, complete with an IgG concentration that lists the number of antibodies in their system.

He emphasized that the study does not mean participants will receive treatment, but that they should go to a clinic for that.

One such treatment facility is the Ballad Health Center for Post-COVID Care. The clinic’s director, Dr. Paul Jett, told News Channel 11 he hopes to one day learn from the research gathered by the ETSU “long-haul” study and apply it in his treatment plans.

“We’re starting to get some national guidelines to treat these things with now that we gain more information, so the more patients the better and everybody can learn from the encounter,” Jett said. “I think both the patients get something out of it as well as it assists providers and as a system where we’re really learning what this thing is involving and we learn something from each encounter that we have.”

Those who qualify for treatment may call (423) 952-2183 or send an email for more information on how to become a patient at the Ballad clinic.

For the ETSU study, Adkins gave an example of why he persists:

“I’ve talked to [participants] personally, and I sit down across from them and we talk, and they explain how you know, one fellow, his wife died. At the same time, they both had COVID. He lived, she died – he wants to know why,” Adkins said. “And that really kind of set me on that path forward saying, ‘well, they’re the same age, male, female, hadn’t seemed to have any kind of difference really in comorbidities or anything, but she passed, he didn’t.'”

To learn more about the study and how to participate, call 423-430-2443 or send an email.

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