Largest medical research grant to help ME/CFS and Long COVID research

Professor Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik

Griffith University’s research into the potential overlap between Long COVID and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) has received a major boost thanks to a $6.4 million grant from the Stafford Fox Medical Research Foundation.

The funding injection will be used by Griffith’s internationally renowned National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases (NCNED) at the Menzies Health Institute Queensland.

Chief Investigator Professor Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik said: “We are thrilled with this successful outcome as this grant provides the foundation to further our novel scientific discoveries of the pathology of ME/CFS as well as now explore the potential similarities with Long COVID.”

“The research funding also provides for a clinical trial using identified pharmacotherapeutic targets and the registered drug, low dose naltrexone (LDN), to be used in a clinical trial for both ME/CFS and Long COVID patients.

“The clinical trial will be conducted with participants from Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria with recruitment of volunteers to commence in the coming months.

“The clinical trial will be undertaken with our long-term collaborators the World Health Organisation (WHO) Reference Laboratory, Australian Rickettsial Research Laboratory (ARRL), Geelong Hospital, and Barwon Health, Victoria.”

ME/CFS affects around 240,000 Australians for whom no universally accepted biomarker, diagnostic test or therapeutic treatment exists.

Sufferers of this debilitating disorder experience profound fatigue, muscle and joint pain, cerebral symptoms of impaired memory and concentration, impaired cardiovascular function, and immunological and sensory dysfunction such as noise intolerance and balance disturbance.

COVID-19 has affected more than 600 million people worldwide.

Patients with Long COVID report similar symptoms to ME/CFS patients such as neurocognitive, immunological, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular manifestations, which are also symptoms of ME/CFS.

Professor Marshall-Gradisnik said ultimately, the clinical findings will hopefully demonstrate an improvement in the quality of life, in turn reducing the economic burden of ME/CFS and Long COVID on the health care system.

“This may further result in a realignment of health care professional services,” she said.

Stafford Fox Medical Research Foundation Trustee, Mr Ken Wallace, said: “The Foundation continues to be impressed by the scientific discoveries by NCNED researchers that now enables a clinical trial to be undertaken in Australia to benefit ME/CFS and Long COVID patients.”

Mr Paul Brotchie, Stafford Fox Medical Research Foundation Trustee, said: “We have been funding this research since 2014 and are delighted to support the retention of senior researchers and emerging researchers in ME/CFS and Long COVID for the coming five years through three Stafford Fox Medical Research Foundation Fellowships.”