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‘Long COVID’ — the latest developments

The broad clinical consensus remains that the most effective treatment will be bespoke and targeted towards the patient’s individual phenotype.

With data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), showing almost two million people in the UK experiencing self-reported Long COVID symptoms — defined as symptoms continuing for more than four weeks after the first confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection — we examine both the latest medical research and developments in personal injury litigation.

Litigation against hospital trusts 

Although many commentators feared that the COVID-19 pandemic would provoke an avalanche of personal injury lawsuits against employers and public bodies, litigation has been sparse with many claimants seemingly deterred by the difficulties in establishing that their condition had arisen due to occupational exposure as opposed to contraction of COVID-19 outside the workplace.

The Law Society Gazette (26 January 2024), reports that Bond Turner has announced its intention to bring actions against NHS trusts, registered practices and any other applicable government bodies for alleged failure to protect front line health care workers during the pandemic.

The law firm is working alongside the support group “Long Covid Doctors for Action”.

Although the firm did not comment on the precise numbers signed up on a CFA basis, the Gazette believes that they have had enquiries from “hundreds of potential claimants”.

A spokesman for Bond Turner references the need for healthcare workers to “come forward and join the action as soon as possible”, so that there is sufficient time for the claim to be fully considered and investigated.

Given the three year limitation period for personal injury actions, claimants who contracted COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic face real risk that their actions are now time-barred.

Long COVID treatment

Clinicians group Long COVID broadly into four clinical phenotypes:

  1. Chronic fatigue, headache and memory loss;
  2. Respiratory syndrome;
  3. Chronic pain;
  4. Neurosensorial syndrome which has an accompanying altered sense of taste and smell.

Medscape Medical News (25 January 2024) reports three treatments which it is hoped will soon be widely available and provide respite and relief for significant numbers of people still living with Long COVID symptoms many months after the worst ravages of the pandemic ended.

The broad clinical consensus remains that the most effective treatment will be bespoke and targeted towards the patient’s individual phenotype.

Researchers have found that some patients retain spike proteins in their blood — persisting in so called “viral reservoirs” — which caused the immune system to react as if it is still fighting an acute COVID-19 infection. In a small-scale study reported in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, researchers found that by targeting these spike proteins with monoclonal antibodies, three Long COVID patients recovered completely — leading to a larger clinical trial which is now underway.

Last year also saw the US Food and Drug Administration approve the drug paxlovid for the treatment for mild to moderate COVID in those deemed to be clinically “high risk”. Paxlovid was found to stop the virus from replicating in some but was ineffective for others. Researchers also recorded that some patients reported moderate and significant side effects.

Finally, as lower circulating serotonin levels have been found in many Long COVID patients, it is hoped that the administration of fluoxetine will increase serotonin levels and lead to symptom relief. Clinical trials are anticipated.

For further information contact our occupational disease solicitors

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