A SCOTS university researcher has received an award for her work in the fight against long Covid.
Researcher Dr Merete Long from the University of Dundee has been named as one of the best young scientists in her field for her work that gives clues as to why some people develop long Covid.
Merete received the British Association of Lung Research (BALR) Early Career Investigator Award at the British Thoracic Society (BTS) Winter Meeting.
Merete, a postdoctoral researcher based at the University’s School of Medicine, was named the winner of the prize after delivering a presentation on her research into neutrophils.
These are white blood cells that act as the immune system’s first line of defense, and her research explains the role they play in Covid-19 infection.
PREDICT-COVID19, the study led by Merete, looked at cellular changes occurring within neutrophils in patients with Covid-19.
Results showed that changes within neutrophils were linked to delayed recovery and highlighted neutrophils as potential therapeutic targets in long Covid.
“It’s a real honour to win this award,” said Merete.
“I was really proud to present this work and can’t really believe that I was selected for one of the prizes. It’s a huge credit to the whole team in Dundee.
“Neutrophils are typically associated with bacterial infections – they target and destroy bacteria, protecting your body from further harm and infection.
“However, we knew that neutrophils were quite diverse and we did everything that we possibly could to characterise what they might be doing in Covid-19 to explore if they were helping or harming.
“Quite early on we found that they were doing something, changing, in Covid-19, and tended to be associated with more severe disease. We found that these cells have an ongoing role in non-recovered patients.
“This work can help us understand why patients might be suffering from long Covid. We hope that it will give us further ideas about what might be going wrong in those patients and how we can treat them.”
Merete joined the University in 2019 and works in the laboratory of Professor James Chalmers, one of the UK’s foremost lung experts.
She was originally going to be carrying out research into bronchiectasis but the need to better understand Covid-19 took priority.
“Covid-19 really changed things for scientific research,” Merete continued.
“Viral infections hadn’t received that scale of research attention before and there hasn’t really been a significant advance in how we treat people that come into hospital with severe respiratory infections for a long time.
“Being able to study a viral infection in such a comprehensive way is incredibly beneficial.
“We can apply these ideas to other kinds of viral infections that were known before Covid was even heard of.”
The BALR Early Career Investigator Award is awarded in recognition of the very best basic, translational, or clinical research performed in the UK respiratory community by an early career researcher.
The prize is awarded based on the quality and content of the research, as well as the standard of the oral presentation given at the BTS Winter Meeting.