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Coronavirus: Blood-thinning drugs could be life-saving Covid-19 treatment, UK doctors believe

Researchers say they have identified clear link between Covid-19 and blood clotting

Conrad Duncan
Sunday 17 May 2020 21:04 BST
First patients given plasma in coronavirus treatment trial

Blood-thinning drugs could be used to help save coronavirus patients by preventing dangerous clots forming on their lungs, British doctors have said.

Specialists in London said they had identified a clear link between Covid-19 and blood clotting, with every seriously ill patient they tested found to have potentially deadly clots.

Doctors at Royal Brompton Hospital’​s severe respiratory failure service used dual-energy CT scans to take images of lung function in Covid-19 patients and found a lack of blood flow, which indicated clotting within the small vessels in the lung.

NHS England is thought to be preparing to issue guidance to hospitals, which could see higher doses of blood-thinning drugs being given to critically ill patients, according to The Sunday Telegraph.

“This intravascular clotting is a really nasty twist that we haven’t seen before with many other viruses,” Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) sub-group on clinical information, told the newspaper.

“It does sort of explain the rather extraordinary clinical picture that is being observed with people becoming very hypoxic, very low on oxygen and not really being particularly breathless.

“That would fit with it having a blood vessel origin.”

Research published in the US earlier this month suggested blood thinners could help keep Covid-19 patients on ventilators alive for longer.

A study by researchers at Mount Sinai Health System in New York analysed health records of 2,773 coronavirus patients and found of the 395 who were put on ventilators, 62.7 per cent of those who were not given blood thinners died, compared to only 29.1 per cent of those who were given the medication.

“As a cardiologist who has been on service caring for Covid-19 patients for the last three weeks, I have observed an increased amount of blood clot cases among hospitalised patients, so it is critical to look at whether anticoagulants [a type of blood thinner] provide benefits for them,” said Anu Lala, assistant professor of cardiology medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Doctors at Royal Brompton treated and studied more than 150 critically ill patients and the research team will publish their initial findings next week.

Dr Brijesh Patel, a senior intensivist at Royal Brompton and lecturer at Imperial College London, told The Sunday Telegraph he believed “the majority of patients” would end up on “significant therapeutic doses of blood-thinning agents” as scientists learn more about Covid-19.

“If these interventions in the blood are implemented appropriately, they will save lives,” Dr Patel said.

“I think it is important to introduce blood-thinning agents that are associated with Covid, but you have to do it in the right way, otherwise you can cause harm.”

The government is now reportedly fast-tracking randomised clinical trials to test blood-thinning agents on Covid-19 patients as part of its search for an effective treatment for the virus.

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