Even in the second year of the pandemic, there is no generally applicable definition that describes the long-covid or post-covid syndrome.

It is only clear that about 10 percent of people infected with Sars-CoV-2 have long-term symptoms that can last for several weeks or months.

The most common include extreme exhaustion (fatigue), headache, poor concentration, shortness of breath, as well as the loss of the sense of smell and taste, as well as other neurological symptoms.

Heike Schmoll

Political correspondent in Berlin, responsible for the “educational worlds”.

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"What is particularly treacherous is that long-term complaints can also occur if the infection itself was experienced without symptoms or only with a mild course of the disease," said Federal Education Minister Anja Karliczek (CDU) on Thursday in Berlin.

Karliczek urges patience

Following the publication of the funding guidelines for research projects on long-covid symptoms, ten research associations are now starting, which the Federal Ministry of Education (BMBF) will fund with a total of 6.5 million euros for up to two years.

The university clinics in Dresden, Regensburg and Homburg are examining the malfunction of the immune system.

A research association between the University Clinic in Cologne and the Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Aging are also researching how the dysregulation of the immune system can be improved by "reprogramming" immune cells. The University Hospital Jena, the TU Ilmenau, and the University of Magdeburg are dedicated to long-covid in children and also work together with resident paediatricians.

The psychosocial needs of patients with long covid are also being researched - the Technical University of Munich, the university clinics in Freiburg, Halle, Magedeburg, Tübingen and Ulm are involved. A pilot study is also investigating how individually tailored training programs can safely and effectively improve the physical endurance of Long Covid patients. A research association of the Institute and the Polyclinic for Medical Psychology in Hamburg with the University Medical Center in Greifswald takes care of the restrictions on the quality of life as well as the care needs of those affected in the health care system with long Covid symptoms.

He wants to take into account the perspective of general practitioners as well as that of rehabilitation medical facilities.

For their research, the scientists can fall back on a data set on Long Covid cases collected during the pandemic months.

Karliczek urged patience when presenting the research associations and assured that the projects would continue to be financed if further research is necessary after the funding period has expired.

Anglo-Saxon research far more effective

Swiss and German researchers are critical of the German contribution to international Covid-19 research in randomized-controlled clinical studies. In a preprint that has not yet been assessed, the researchers criticize a lack of study culture, lengthy approval procedures, and a lack of resources. In Germany there is a lack of methodological competence in clinical studies in the academic field (biostatistics, clinical epidemiology).

The promotion of structures and networks for clinical studies must be promoted. According to some researchers, the problem lies not in the number of studies, but in the planning and implementation. This assessment is not shared by everyone; some also hope that the University Medicine Network (NUM) established by the BMBF will bring improvements. All the scientists involved in the preprint agreed that Anglo-Saxon clinical research works far more effectively.

At the request of the FAZ, the BMBF pointed out that the NUM does not primarily serve the goal of conducting clinical studies on therapeutic procedures.

Rather, it was founded to bring together action plans, diagnostic and treatment strategies of the German university hospitals.

Clinical studies should only be carried out if they serve the network's topic-related research.

In January of this year, the BMBF also published a funding guideline for the development of drugs and other Covid-19 therapeutics in clinical test phases I and II and reissued it in June.

To this end, it makes up to 90 million euros available.

So far, however, there have been no major breakthroughs in therapy development.