In a study from the University of Aberdeen, scientists found a protein that could be an early indicator of severe COVID-19.
Patients who get seriously ill following a COVID-19 infection frequently show evidence of a severe form of lung disease and in around 30% of patients blood clots are evident.
Blood clots arise due to deposits of fibrin within the lung contributing to pneumonia and respiratory distress. These fibrin deposits restrict the amount of oxygen absorbed into the lung.
Patients with severe diseases require oxygen support, which in very severe cases requires mechanical ventilation.
In addition, blood clots are found throughout the body of those that are severely ill in both small and large vessels, frequently leading to DVT, stroke, and other thrombotic complications.
In the study, the team analyzed profiles of 113 patients hospitalized in Aberdeen with severe COVID-19; 24 patients with non-COVID-19 respiratory infection; and a control group with no symptoms.
The researchers found that patients with COVID-19 had significantly higher levels of a protein called PAI-1 (plasminogen activator inhibitor 1) compared to those with non-COVID respiratory infections and those with no infection at all.
PAI-1 acts to inhibit the breakdown of fibrin in the body.
As such, the high PAI-1 in COVID-19 patients prevents fibrin removal from the lung and other parts of the body, giving rise to pneumonic complications and thrombosis.
The team says the study results indicate that PAI-1 could be a potential early indicator of severe COVID-19 outcomes.
Not only that but the results from the group indicate that an existing clot-busting drug, Tenecteplase, could be used to treat the condition.
The team says they identified PAI-1 as a key protein involved in the persistence of blood clots in severe COVID-19 disease. PAI-1 is associated with a poorer outcomes in patients.
There are existing drugs that could be utilized to promote the breakdown and clearance of fibrin in the lung of those with severe COVID-19, the study shows that a PAI-1-resistant form of a clot-busting agent, Tenecteplase, is superior over other drugs.
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The study was conducted by Prof. Nicola Mutch et al and published in the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis.
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