Local researchers receive additional funding to study post COVID-19 syndrome

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 6:58 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia just received an additional $300,000 to fund their study diving into the neurological effects of COVID-19. You may have heard of this before, it’s called post COVID-19 syndrome.

They say their biggest question is what percentage of the population has long-term symptoms like brain fog after recovering from COVID-19. They say studies show about one-third of people don’t have any lingering symptoms, one-third will have symptoms for a few months to even a year, and the others could face very long-term side effects.

Augustans are ready to return to normal and stop to smell the roses, but for some, it’s not so easy.

“And you have to kind of learn a new normal. I tell my husband that I texture food, I don’t taste it. I texture it,” said Katie Dowling, a woman who lost taste and smell.

Katie Dowling caught COVID-19 when she was pregnant. Her sense of taste and smell disappeared.

“I was kind of playing it off thinking maybe my pregnancy with the blood flow causing things to be a little more swollen, I was like maybe it will come back after I have the baby and things kind of slow down,” she said.

But they didn’t. She says she still can’t taste and smell like she used to. The busy mom of three says even coffee has become too pungent.

“We want to know how long these symptoms last. Is it just for a year, or is it a very long term process,” said Dr. Elizabeth Rutkowski, Associate Professor of Neurology at MCG.

Dr. Rutkowski is one of the researchers trying to figure out when or if people like Katie will return to normal.

“I think the question since we’re still so early into things is what are people going to look like at year one and two of follow up. Are they going to score any better on some of these cognitive or smell and taste tests than they did previously?” said Dr. Rutowski.

She says unfortunately there’s no magic pill that can regenerate Katie’s nerves to bring back her taste and smell.

“Nobody can give me an answer as to what it is, why, who, what, you know,” said Dowling.

All the more reason this research hopes to find a timeline on exactly how long our COVID long haulers need to expect.

MCG says they’re still looking for people facing post COVID-19 symptoms for their study. They say it’s a minimal time commitment and you’ll even get paid.

Participants must be 18 years of age or older, a local Georgia resident, and have had a positive COVID test from AU health services. MCG says the time commitment is about an hour each year, and participants are paid for their time. If you’re interested, you can email conga@augusta.edu for details.

They also tell us if you’ve recovered from COVID-19 and are worried about long-term symptoms popping up you’ll likely see them arise within the first two to three months.

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