Science & Technology

COVID-19 changes platelets, says study. Why this is harmful

Altering blood platelets can raise risk of building up life-threatening clots

 
Last Updated: Thursday 02 July 2020

Changes in blood platelets by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes the COVID-19 disease can trigger heart attacks, strokes and other complications, according to new research conducted by scientists from the University of Utah, US.

The research — published in Blood, a journal of the American Society of Hematology — found inflammatory proteins formed during the infection make platelets hyperactive and thus, prone to form potentially life-threatening blood clots.

Alteration of platelets can raise the risk of building up life-threatening blood clots.

Analysing different genes, the scientists found SARS-CoV-2 triggered genetic changes in platelets. The platelets that were infected by the SARS-CoV-2 aggregated more readily.

Aggregation of platelets is an important element of blood clot formation.

“We found that inflammation and systemic changes due to the infection influence how platelets function, leading them to aggregate faster,” said Robert A Campbell, the study’s senior author.

“This could explain why we are seeing increased numbers of blood clots in COVID-19 patients,” said Campbell, who is an assistant professor in the university’s Department of Internal Medicine.

The researchers, however, did not detect the presence of the virus in a majority of the platelets. This meant the virus influenced genetic changes in the cells indirectly.

A possible mechanism through which this was being done was inflammation, with this having an effect on megakaryocytes, the cells that produce platelets.

Significant alterations to the genetic material was passed down from megakaryocytes to the platelets, according to the study.

Scientists — conducting test tube studies — found administering aspirin to platelets of COVID-19 patients did prevent this hyperactivity. They, however, said this should studied further in clinical trials.

The scientists studied 41 COVID-19 patients in the University of Utah Hospital.

They included critical patients in the intensive care unit and on ventilators. Their blood samples were compared with those from healthy individuals matched for age and sex.

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