Irish patients with severe Covid-19 infection have been found to have abnormal blood clots in the lungs, prompting calls for further research.
Scientists from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) believe they may have made a significant discovery in our understanding of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. In a study published to the British Journal of Haematology, the researchers wrote that Irish patients with severe cases of Covid-19 are experiencing abnormal blood clotting which, in some cases, has led to deaths.
These micro-clots are found within the lungs and patients with higher levels of blood clotting had a significantly worse prognosis, requiring ICU admission.
“In addition to pneumonia affecting the small air sacs within the lungs, we are also finding hundreds of small blood clots throughout the lungs,” said Prof James O’Donnell, director of the Irish Centre for Vascular Biology at RSCI.
“This scenario is not seen with other types of lung infection and explains why blood oxygen levels fall dramatically in severe Covid-19 infection. 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.”
Using blood thinners as a treatment
O’Donnell led the cross-disciplinary study, with joint first authors Dr Helen Fogarty and Dr Liam Townsend, along with consultants from multiple specialities within St James’s Hospital and researchers at RCSI and Trinity College Dublin.
The researchers are now calling for further studies to investigate whether blood-thinning treatments may have a role in selected high-risk patients to reduce clotting and help them recover from Covid-19.
It follows a recent breakthrough by a team led by researchers from MIT that may have identified specific types of cells that Covid-19 appears to be targeting. Using existing data on the RNA found in different types of cells, the researchers were able to search for cells that express the two proteins that help the coronavirus enter human cells.
This led to the discovery of a subset of cells in the lung, nasal passages and the intestine that express RNA for both of these proteins considerably more than other cells.