Neurobiological basis and risk factors of persistent fatigue and concentration problems after COVID-19: study protocol for a prospective case-control study (VeCosCO)

Anouk Verveen, Sander C J Verfaillie, Denise Visser, Irene Csorba, Emma M Coomans, Dook W Koch, Brent Appelman, Frederik Barkhof, Ronald Boellaard, Godelieve de Bree, Elsmarieke M van de Giessen, Sandeep Golla, Caroline M van Heugten, Janneke Horn, Hanneke E Hulst, Menno D de Jong, Tanja A Kuut, Tessa van der Maaden, Yvonne M G van Os, Maria PrinsArjen J C Slooter, Johanna M A Visser-Meily, Michele van Vugt, Cees C van den Wijngaard, P T Nieuwkerk, H Knoop, Nelleke Tolboom, Bart N M van Berckel

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INTRODUCTION: The risk factors for persistent fatigue and cognitive complaints after infection with SARS-CoV-2 and the underlying pathophysiology are largely unknown. Both clinical factors and cognitive-behavioural factors have been suggested to play a role in the perpetuation of complaints. A neurobiological aetiology, such as neuroinflammation, could be the underlying pathophysiological mechanism for persisting complaints.To unravel factors associated with persisting complaints, VeCosCO will compare individuals with and without persistent fatigue and cognitive complaints >3 months after infection with SARS-CoV-2. The study consists of two work packages. The first work package aims to (1) investigate the relation between persisting complaints and neuropsychological functioning; (2) determine risk factors and at-risk phenotypes for the development of persistent fatigue and cognitive complaints, including the presence of postexertional malaise and (3) describe consequences of persistent complaints on quality of life, healthcare consumption and physical functioning. The second work package aims to (1) determine the presence of neuroinflammation with [18F]DPA-714 whole-body positron emission tomography (PET) scans in patients with persisting complaints and (2) explore the relationship between (neuro)inflammation and brain structure and functioning measured with MRI.

METHODS AND ANALYSIS: This is a prospective case-control study in participants with and without persistent fatigue and cognitive complaints, >3 months after laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection. Participants will be mainly included from existing COVID-19 cohorts in the Netherlands covering the full spectrum of COVID-19 acute disease severity. Primary outcomes are neuropsychological functioning, postexertional malaise, neuroinflammation measured using [18F]DPA-714 PET, and brain functioning and structure using (f)MRI.

ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: Work package 1 (NL79575.018.21) and 2 (NL77033.029.21) were approved by the medical ethical review board of the Amsterdam University Medical Centers (The Netherlands). Informed consent is required prior to participation in the study. Results of this study will be submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals and shared with the key population.

Originele taal-2English
Aantal pagina's9
TijdschriftBMJ Open
Nummer van het tijdschrift6
StatusPublished - 30 jun 2023

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© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2023. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.


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