Researchers have discovered why some patients with COVID-19 develop life-threatening blood clots. The findings could lead to better treatment options for these high-risk patients, say experts.
According to BBC Science Focus Magazine, scientists from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, also known as RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, analyzed blood samples taken from COVID-19 patients in the Beaumont Hospital Intensive Care Unit in Dublin and found irregularities in the levels of certain elements.
The clotting protein called von Willebrand Factor, or VWF, and its regulator called ADAMTS13, were disrupted in patients with severe COVID-19. These patients had higher levels of the clotting protein and lower levels of the anti-clotting ADAMTS13 factor than patients without COVID-19.
“We looked at the markers in the blood of these patients and tried to understand what was underpinning the blood clotting,” said Dr. Jamie O’Sullivan, the lead author of the study. “We observed elevated levels of the protein, VWF.”
O’Sullivan said that the sticky protein normally helps people from bleeding excessively by binding blood platelets, but in COVID-19 patients, levels of VWF were up to six times higher than normal. Reducing the levels of this protein could be therapeutic for patients, she said.
“We also have this parallel of a reduced level of another protein or enzyme in the blood that would usually help to regulate blood clotting, known as ADAMTS13,” said the scientist, according to BBC Science Focus Magazine. “We see that levels of this anti-clotting are low in the blood of patients with COVID-19, creating a perfect storm for clotting complications in patients with severe infection.”
O’Sullivan, a research lecturer of Pharmacy and Biological Sciences at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, said that more research is needed to develop specific targets aimed at correcting the levels of ADAMTS13 and VWF.
“It’s very much in its infancy and to the best of my knowledge it’s something being researched,” she said. The research was funded by Irish COVID-19 Vasculopathy Study through the Health Research Board COVID-19 Rapid Response award, as well as other philanthropic donations.
As COVID-19 spread across the world, doctors discovered that aside from breathing complications, many people suffered from blood clots that could lead to life-threatening strokes, hearts attacks and pulmonary embolisms, according to experts at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
According to The Hill, Broadway star Nick Cordero had his right leg amputated in April 2020 due to a blood clot resulting from his battle with COVID-19. The 41-year-old Canadian-born actor died on July 5, 2020, after 90 days in the hospital.
Dr. Matthew Exline, director of the medical intensive care unit at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, said that severe inflammation caused by COVID-19 could trigger clotting as well as the immobility of severe illness.
“If you’re immobile, you have an increased risk for blood clots,” he said, adding that patients admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 should receive blood tests to gauge the activity of their clotting systems.
Dr. O’Sullivan. the Irish researcher, said her team’s discovery will help develop better treatment for blood clotting due to COVID-19.
“COVID-19 vaccines will continue to be unavailable to many people throughout the world, and it is important that we provide effective treatments to them and to those with breakthrough infections,” she said, according to BBC Science Focus Magazine.
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