Coronavirus has dealt the world a number of important lessons and high up on the list is to appreciate the work that is done in the field of epidemiology. The crisis has proven that funding must be consistently funnelled into the research conducted by these disease experts to prevent (to the best of our ability) a pandemic from happening again.
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COVID-19 has killed more than 200,000 people since it first broke out in China and it is far from over.
Researchers are scrambling to understand why the deadly new disease kills some people it infects in a bid to stop it from killing more people that come into contact with it.
Fortunately, researchers are advancing their knowledge into the causes of death.
A new study shed further light on a significant cause of death in patients with COVID-19.
A study led by clinician scientists at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences has found that Irish patients admitted to hospital with severe COVID-19 infection are experiencing abnormal blood clotting that contributes to death in some patients.
In the study, published in the current edition of the British Journal of Haematology, the authors found that abnormal blood clotting occurs in Irish patients with severe COVID-19 infection, causing micro-clots within the lungs.
They also found that Irish patients with higher levels of blood clotting activity had a significantly worse prognosis and were more likely to require ICU admission.
“Our novel findings demonstrate that COVID-19 is associated with 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,” said Professor James O’Donnell, Director of the Irish Centre for Vascular Biology, RCSI and Consultant Haematologist in the National Coagulation Centre in St James’s Hospital, Dublin.
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He continued: “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.”
The finding may be behind the growing reports of COVID-related strokes.
Strokes occur when the brain’s blood supply is interrupted, usually by a blood clot.
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“Recently, there have been reports of a greater-than-expected number of younger patients being hospitalised for, and sometimes dying from, serious strokes,” explains Harvard Health.
According to the health body, COVID-related strokes occur because of a body-wide increase in blood clot formation, which can damage any organ, not just the brain.
“A blood clot in the lungs is called pulmonary embolism and can cause shortness of breath, chest pain, or death; a blood clot in or near the heart can cause a heart attack; and blood clots in the kidneys can cause kidney damage requiring dialysis,” explains the health site.
It adds: “We don’t yet know if the coronavirus itself stimulates blood clots to form, or if they are a result of an overactive immune response to the virus.”
Blood clots – how to spot them
According to the NHS, symptoms of a blood clot include:
- Throbbing or cramping pain, swelling, redness and warmth in a leg or arm
- Sudden breathlessness, sharp chest pain (may be worse when you breathe in) and a cough or coughing up blood.
As the health site explains, blood clots can be life threatening if not treated quickly.
What should I do if I suspect I have one?
“111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one,” advises the NHS.
You should call 999 or go to A&E if:
- You’re struggling to breathe
- Someone has passed out.
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