Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) is launching a second phase of its ongoing study to determine the long-term effects of COVID-19 in Marines at Camp Johnson, North Carolina.
The COVID-19 Health Action Response for Marines (CHARM 2.0) is a continuation of an initial study that NMRC began at Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) Parris Island in May 2020. The study is a volunteer progression-based assessment to monitor possible health related issues as a result of COVID-19 recovery, and the team has resumed evaluating the initial volunteers from across multiple Camp Lejeune tenant commands.
U.S. Navy Cmdr. Andrew Letizia, the principal investigator for the CHARM study said the research provides a critical approach to understanding the long term effects of the disease.
“This study helps understand the long term effects of COVID-19 amongst Marines,” Letizia said. “It will also assist in understanding how a Marine’s immune system would be able to fight off new and emerging variants of the various SARS-CoV-2 strains, the virus that causes COVID-19, that are coming from around the world.”
Letizia said the CHARM studies began in 2020, with revisits this year to assess the original group of recruits, now Marines. With the most recent update to the testing, the team is tasked with scouring across the country to continue research on Marines from the original study.
“The study was conducted from May to Nov. 2020, and it followed Marine recruits entering boot camp,” he said. “We wanted to better understand all the Marines that had COVID-19 after infection, regardless of symptoms. Then we evaluated them for six weeks to see how their immune system has made progression.”
The research team is currently reassessing the Marine volunteers, across military installations as part of the CHARM 2.0 study. This week the team reached out to leaders on Camp Lejeune to allow time for any original study participants to continue with their follow-ups.
“All participants from the first study were eligible to continue the research,” Letizia said. “We’re hoping following up with these Marines will allow us to better understand the long term effects of COVID-19 on an individual’s health - in particular their heart, lungs, and mental health as well as their immune system.”
One of the original participants, U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Jada May, a supply chain and material management specialist student at Ground Supply School, volunteered for the follow-up study.
“I volunteered because as a twin I wanted to see if COVID would affect me differently as well as others,” May said. “I started in the program last August as a recruit and during the assessment learned that other Marines had an immunity built up, which greatly helped with the study.”
May said that she’s hopeful the research will benefit efforts to understand and fight COVID-19. Researchers are hoping the clinical results over time will benefit the understanding of healthy individuals during the pandemic.
“This was a unique opportunity not just for the Marine Corps, but also for the whole Department of Defense to better understand the effects on our active duty population,” Letizia said.
The CHARM projects have only improved the understanding of how Naval Medicine can impact COVID-19 relief efforts as well as support the health and readiness of the Marine Corps as an organization.
“CHARM 1.0 as well as 2.0 show the power of Navy Medicine to deploy and support the Marine Corps especially during this pandemic,” said Letizia. “We really need to understand our foe as well as the ability of the individual Marine to fight off that infection, and we at the Navy Medical Research Center are proud to help with that.”