Unlocking the Mysteries of Long COVID


For most people, the threat of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 has plummeted since the early days of the pandemic. But the threat of long COVID – in the form of prolonged, sometimes disabling, symptoms – remains. Lekshmi Santhosh and Michael Peluso will discuss what is known about long COVID through the lens of our own experience at UCSF and ZSFG. Ziyad Al-Aly of Washington University in St. Louis has conducted pioneering studies that have demonstrated that each episode of COVID may elevate the long-term risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and cognitive decline; he will join us to discuss this research and its troubling implications.


Lekshmi Santhosh, MD, is a pulmonary and critical care physician at UCSF Health and is the founder and Medical Director of the multidisciplinary long-COVID/post-ICU OPTIMAL Clinic at UCSF Health, which was established in May 2020. The OPTIMAL clinic served as an early role model to other institutions in establishing their own clinics and has also been featured in the popular press. Her medical education focus lies in clinical reasoning and transitions of care.

Michael Peluso, MD, is an infectious disease physician at ZSFG. Prior to COVID, his research focus was on the chronic sequelae of HIV infection. When the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic emerged, he led the efforts to implement the Long-term Impact of Infection with Novel Coronavirus (LIINC) study examining COVID’s long-term impacts on health and well-being. LIINC was one of the first post-COVID cohorts in the U.S. and now includes hundreds of individuals with and without long COVID, many of whom have been followed for more than two years. He focuses on the underlying biological mechanisms that drive long COVID and is the UCSF lead for the NIH’s RECOVER initiative.

Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, is chief of the Research and Development Service and director of the Clinical Epidemiology Center at the VA Saint Louis Health Care System, as well as a clinical epidemiologist at Washington University. He serves on the White House Intra-agency Policy Committee on Long COVID, co-chaired the Biden-Harris Administration committee that developed the U.S. Government National Research Action Plan on Long COVID and serves on the Federal Government Long COVID Coordination Council. He has had numerous publications in Nature regarding the long-term impacts of COVID.