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Science & Medicine: Long COVID and the road to recovery

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Roberto Martinez

When Congress wanted to hear from one of the nation’s leading experts on long COVID, it looked to San Antonio.

Dr. Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, professor and chair of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, has been running two long COVID clinics since early in the pandemic, and she says every case is different. 

"I always say, if I've seen one patient with long COVID, I've seen one patient with long COVID. So it's a whole spectrum of disease. But there are some things where we know are a little bit more expected," Verduzco-Gutierrez told TPR's Bonnie Petrie.

She added: "Definitely fatigue, but it isn't just the kind of normal fatigue that someone has when they're tired at the end of the day or don't sleep well — this is a debilitating fatigue. Or they can have post exertion malaise or symptom exacerbation. So that means they may do an activity and then they have a crash. Patients can get headaches, they can get pain, they can get ongoing chronic coughs, they can get changes in their blood pressure."

Dr. Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez runs two long COVID clinics in San Antonio, is known for running marathons, and she partners in running a home as a mom to two children. But after recovering from COVID-19, she couldn’t walk around a mall. Host Bonnie Petrie speaks with Dr. Gutierrez about the realities of long COVID for millions of people three years into the pandemic.

"There's also a lot of other autonomic changes, which is a fancy way of saying their heart rates and their body vessels aren't squeezing and responding the way they're supposed to. So that can cause palpitations and dizziness and lightheadedness and then they get brain fog," Verduzco-Gutierrez said.

About 10% of people who are infected with COVID — even if their case was mild — will go on to develop symptoms of long COVID. UT Health San Antonio's wide range of research into the syndrome includes participation in the National Institute of Health’s RECOVER trial.

"We're the only one in Texas that is recruiting in the RECOVER trial. And then hopefully we'll be starting some treatment trials for long COVID through RECOVER as well."

Science & Medicine is a collaboration between TPR and The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, about how scientific discovery in San Antonio advances the way medicine is practiced everywhere. 

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