Several community leaders have committed $300,000 to help continue to fund a Medical College of Georgia study examining the long-term neurological impact of COVID-19.
MCG’s COVID-19 Neurological and Molecular Perspective Cohort Study in Georgia, or CONGA, is following adults who were infected with the novel coronavirus and are still suffering from lingering symptoms like memory loss, loss of taste and/or smell, and other neurological issues. Researchers hope to recruit 1,000 patients in Georgia over the next five years.
The MCG investigators received $308,000 in emergency COVID-19 funding from the National Institutes of Health to enable the first year of study.
Donors helping that work continue include local philanthropists, TR Reddy and his wife Dr. Anjini Reddy; University System of Georgia Board of Regents Member, chair of the AU Health System Board of Directors and Augusta businessman Jim Hull; and local businessman Ronnie Powell, owner of Appling-based Powell Construction.
“We still are only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to finding out what the long-term sequelae of this virus will be. Its impact will need to be studied for many years to come,” says MCG Dean Dr. David Hess, a stroke specialist and one of the grant’s co-principal investigators. “While federal funding helped initiate critical studies like these, philanthropic funding is essential to continuing the work long-term. I am thankful to the Reddy and Powell Families and to Regent Hull and others for recognizing the importance and impact of this work.”
Others who have committed to helping fund the project through the TR Reddy Family Fund for COVID-19 Neurological Research include Reddy’s son Arvind, of Atlanta; Dr. Michael Phillips, Reddy’s son-in-law who also is an infectious diseases physician in New York; and another Reddy family member S.P. Reddy, of India.
The potential of the virus to impact the neurological system is clear in reports of slight increases in strokes and in symptoms like loss of taste and smell. There have also been reports of brain involvement called encephalopathy, which may impact consciousness and cause confusion, as well as headaches and seizures.
MCG neurologists say long-term follow up is important to getting a clear picture of the impact of the virus-driven illness, and that in some pandemics, a viral or bacterial infection actually sets off a neurodegenerative condition that worsens with time. In the wake of the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918, for example, physicians were seeing immediate problems like delirium and encephalitis lethargica, which causes troubles like excessive sleepiness and movement problems, and — sometimes years later — a form of Parkinson’s.
To find out more about the MCG CONGA study send an email here.