People Who Die From COVID Have These 2 Things in Common, Study Finds
These two horrifying conditions were found in all the people who died from COVID in a new study.
The U.S. has lost about 173,500 lives to COVID-19 thus far. And while we know that certain factors—like your age, your weight, and some underlying conditions—can make your coronavirus case more severe, researchers are still learning more about what makes the virus deadly for some and inconsequential for others. Now, a new study, out of Imperial College London, has made another discovery that indicates what exactly is killing many patients. The researchers found that most people who die from COVID-19 have these two things in common: lung damage and blood clots.
The study, published in the journal The Lancet Microbe, detailed 10 post-mortem examinations on people who had tested positive for COVID. All 10 of these patients showed signs of lung injuries and scarring of the lungs, and all nine of the patients who were examined for blood clots had them in at least one major organ. Eight patients had a blood clot in their lungs, while five patients had a clot in their heart, and four showed signs of a clot in their kidneys. Another prominent malady in the patients studied was immune cell depletion.
The study's co-author Michael Osborn, MD, Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer at Imperial College London, said in a statement that the study supports "existing theories from researchers and doctors on the wards that lung injuries, thrombosis, and immune cell depletion are the most prominent features in severe cases of COVID-19."
It's no surprise that COVID wreaks havoc on the lungs since it is a respiratory disease. But it's become increasingly clear the extreme extent of damage the virus can do on this vital organ, even if it doesn't lead to death. "Researchers have found that long-term scarring of the lungs, known as fibrosis, can be a problem, which could cause varying levels of long-term breathing impairments," Ari Bernstein, MD, advisor for Fruit Street Health and CovidMD, previously told Best Life.
Similarly, even those who survive COVID-19 have a high risk of developing blood clots, which can result in strokes or heart attacks down the line. James Giordano, PhD, professor of Neurology and Biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Center, previously told Best Life that severe COVID-19 cases trigger cytokine storms, which is when the immune system starts attacking the body's own cells rather than the virus. And these "high levels of cytokines can increase blood clotting," Giordano says.
The Imperial College researchers behind the new study also identified a few more surprising findings. In a handful of the patients, the researchers found pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), kidney injuries, pericarditis (inflammation of the pericardium), and secondary fungal infections, noting these discoveries require "additional investigations" for experts to be able to fully understand how these issues are linked to COVID.
With the new knowledge gained from this study, however, the authors hope clinicians will be better prepared to treat COVID patients. "This increased understanding of COVID-19 can help clinical teams with the management of severe cases and also to monitor and treat further complications as a result of the disease," co-author of the study Brian Hanley, MBBCh, said in a statement. "The search for effective treatments will rely on an understanding of how the disease affects the body." And for more on the damage the coronavirus can do, check out The 98 Longest Lasting COVID Symptoms You Need to Know About.