This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) will support research grants to address urgent, time-sensitive research questions on the relationships between alcohol consumption and COVID-19 related outcomes and consequences. The principal area of focus is research that can improve public health in the near term by informing responses to the current COVID-19 pandemic, in view of 1) the impact of alcohol misuse on incidence and severity of COVID-19 disease or 2) the effect of the COVID-19 disease and pandemic-induced restrictions on alcohol use and alcohol use disorder (AUD). Time-sensitive applications for which standard NIH review and funding timelines would compromise either the ability to conduct the research or the value of the knowledge and with the potential to inform responses to the current pandemic will be considered.
Applications to this RFA should be accomplished within a three year project duration.
Alcohol consumption and COVID-19 potentially have multifaceted interactions, which arise from complicated biological, behavioral and psychosocial causes and consequences of alcohol use and misuse. Alcohol consumption is a common coping mechanism for psychological distress. The well recognized prolonged stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic might increase the risk of alcohol misuse, which in turn may lead to chronic heavy alcohol drinking and alcohol use disorder (AUD). Furthermore, physical distancing requirements may impact the design and delivery of treatment and prevention services, thus complicating the ability to mitigate pandemic-associated increases in alcohol consumption and misuse. Provision of services across the continuum of care, including both telehealth and in-person treatment, is also disrupted by the pandemic, impacting individuals with AUD. Increased stress and reduced access to social supports may also raise the risk for relapse among those in recovery from AUD.
Separately, alcohol misuse interferes with normal immune system function, and thus may elevate susceptibility to viral infections or the severity of COVID-19-associated symptoms. Alcohol misuse also disrupts neuroimmune interactions and is associated with neuroinflammation. The impacts of excessive alcohol consumption on the body and brain complicate physical and mental health outcomes in individuals with COVID-19. Acute alcohol intoxication can affect impulsivity and risk-taking behavior, which in turn may have consequences for the spread of coronavirus infection. Public settings in which alcohol is consumed may pose particular hazards for virus transmission, and public policies have sought to limit such risks in bars, restaurants, and other gatherings. These and other potential biological and behavioral interactions between alcohol and the COVID-19 pandemic present a range of urgent research needs and opportunities.
As the pandemic continues to evolve, the long-lasting impact of SARS-CoV2 infection on physical, cognitive, and mental health have emerged as a new challenge. The post-acute sequelae appear to arise from the extended effects of SARS-CoV2 infection and its consequences on both peripheral and central systems, beyond the initial infection by SARS-CoV-2. It remains to be determined whether and how alcohol use and misuse may interact with or contribute to post-acute sequelae following acute SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Research is needed to understand the potentially complex, bi-directional relationships between alcohol consumption and COVID-19, as well as the impact of social and policy measures on alcohol consumption and related outcomes. Such studies also will help to lay the groundwork for responding to future public health emergencies. This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) encourages applications to assess the impact of alcohol as a biological contributor to COVID-19 outcomes and sequelae, and to assess behavioral, social, and economic consequences of the pandemic, and the restrictions that the pandemic has imposed, as they relate to alcohol consumption and related outcomes.
The FOA will support research project grants that address urgent, time-sensitive research questions for which standard NIH review and funding timelines would compromise either the ability to conduct the research or the value of the knowledge to be gained. A principal area of focus is research that can improve public health in the near term by informing responses to the current COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences.
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