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The preliminary results of the ORCHESTRA project: long-COVID more common among women

The annual meeting of ORCHESTRA , a European project coordinated by the University of Verona, was held on Monday 21 and Tuesday 22 November in the Palazzo Verità Poeta in Vicolo San Silvestro in Verona. During the event, the main results were presented and the next steps to counter the pandemic and to understand and deal with long-COVID were planned. The meeting was attended by more than 150 researchers and experts from all over Europe and beyond, as well as representatives of the European Commission, the European Center for the prevention and control of communicable diseases (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The ORCHESTRA project started in December 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the aim of creating a new pan-European cohort capable of rapidly providing valuable evidence for public health policies and vaccination strategies, in order to counter Sars-Cov-2 infections. The project is funded with a total budget of close to 30 million euros by the European research and innovation program Horizon 2020, within the ERAvsCorona action plan, developed jointly by the European Commission and bodies from various European countries to address the pandemic.

The coordination of the project is entrusted to Evelina Tacconelli, director of the infectious diseases section of the University of Verona. «The ORCHESTRA project – Tacconelli underlined – now includes, two years after the start of the works, more than 60 historical and prospective cohorts for a total of over one million individuals from 15 countries. Thanks to the work and collaboration of numerous working groups, we are now able to better understand the meaning of long-COVID, which is not a single disease but unfortunately consists of various pathologies. Women are certainly more at risk than men and neurological symptoms, such as headache, can be early indicators of consequences even after recovery.

The results obtained by the ORCHESTRA project are not limited only to long-COVID, but have provided essential data for public health decisions at an international level, such as the description of the serological response to vaccinations and booster doses, particularly in transplant recipients; the description of the so-called breakthrough infections that occur in vaccinated patients and infections in healthcare workers.

The ORCHESTRA cohort also includes the pediatric population coordinated by Carlo Giaquinto, professor of general and specialist pediatrics at the University of Padua, among the project partners. «In the two years since the launch of the project – explained Giaquinto – the researchers of the Penta network have worked tirelessly to provide timely and solid data in an ever-changing epidemiological scenario in children. Despite being in continuous contact, today is the first opportunity for the entire group to meet in person. We come out of this meeting even more committed to strengthening the ORCHESTRA cohort to be better prepared in case of future public health dangers in particular to protect frail adults and children».

«The ORCHESTRA project – added Catherine Cohet, doctor of the EMA – continues to demonstrate the ability to generate solid scientific evidence on broad health issues related to COVID-19. This evidence can contribute to public health decision-making and the pandemic regulatory framework. Beyond the current COVID-19 pandemic, the networks and infrastructure created by ORCHESTRA will be crucial to better address future pandemics”.

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