Which still unanswered questions can physicians in Arizona discover to help neighbors recover from long COVID-19?

One Univ. of Arizona specialist played a role in an recent National Institutes of Health study focused on lingering symptoms a condition which he said is disproportionately affecting Arizonans.

KGUN9 has also learned the Tucson-based team may play a role in testing the best treatments to change long-COVID patients’ prognosis. University of Arizona researchers are involved in the design of clinical trials for Long-COVID,” Parasarathy said. “(We) will likely be a site for clinical trials very soon.

Recent research also published and shared by UArizona Health Sciences found more than 10 percent of all humans people who’ve had COVID-19 might be living with long COVID.

Dr. Sairam Parasarathy and the NIH team forming the RECOVER initiative compiled a list of 12 key symptoms they consider the most telling signs a patient has not fully recovered from COVID-19 and its consequences.

Parasarathy, who specializes in pulmonary and sleep care, said the team devised the rubric using a scoring system when looking at a COVID-19 patient’s symptoms six months or later after infection.

“(If) you add up the score and it comes to 12 or greater,” he said, “that means the chance of that person having long-COVID is a slam dunk, for lack of a better word.”

Those symptoms include: fatigue, brain fog, chronic cough, gastrointestinal distress or loss/change of taste or smell, to name a few.

Parasarathy points out, however, these symptoms are not the only clues to help doctors determine what ails a patient.

“If they don’t reach that score of 12 or higher, that doesn’t mean they do not have long-COVID,” he said. “They could still have long-COVID. It’s just that we can’t be 100% certain. There are 200 symptoms that patient advocacy groups have published, saying that there are all these other symptoms that are also tied to long-COVID because this virus affects the entire body.”

Because of those observations, Parasarathy said he and his peers put study participants into what they refer to as clusters, depending on the kind of symptoms they experienced.

He also said doctors are noticing that certain symptoms, show there’s a connection between the damage the virus has done to a person’s organ systems.

“Say the brain fog is clustering with the sleep problem, (then) clustering with loss of sense of smell and taste and things of that nature,” Parasarathy said. “We are able to cluster them together. That means not only are they occurring due to the same underlying process, but maybe the treatments for them will also be similar.”

At this point in their investigations, Parasarathy said physicians want to test a number of treatments, which promising a viable way to help long-COVID patients.

It could come in the form of corticosteroids, existing COVID-19-specific treatments like Paxlovid, immunosuppresants or even medications to target gut dysbiosis.