Blood clotting is a major cause of death in COVID-19

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In a new study, researchers found that patients admitted to hospital with severe COVID-19 infection are experiencing abnormal blood clotting that contributes to death in some patients.

The research was led by scientists at the RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences.

The team found that abnormal blood clotting occurs in Irish patients with severe COVID-19 infection, causing micro-clots within the lungs.

They also found that patients with higher levels of blood clotting activity had a much worse prognosis and were more likely to require ICU admission.

The novel findings demonstrate that COVID-19 is linked to a unique type of blood clotting disorder that is primarily focussed within the lungs and which undoubtedly contributes to the high levels of mortality being seen in patients with COVID-19.

In addition to pneumonia affecting the small air sacs within the lungs, the researchers are also finding hundreds of small blood clots throughout the lungs.

This scenario is not seen with other types of lung infection and explains why blood oxygen levels fall dramatically in severe COVID-19 infection.

The team says understanding how these micro-clots are being formed within the lung is critical so that we can develop more effective treatments for our patients, particularly those in high-risk groups.

Further studies will be required to investigate whether different blood-thinning treatments may have a role in selected high-risk patients in order to reduce the risk of clot formation.

Emerging evidence also shows that the abnormal blood-clotting problem in COVID-19 results in a much-increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.

The lead author of the study is Professor James O’Donnell, Director of the Irish Centre for Vascular Biology.

The study is published in the British Journal of Haematology.

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