Long COVID is said to be affecting millions of previously infected patients in the UK alone. Despite the widespread problem, scientists are still far from pinpointing exactly what causes lingering symptoms in people who have already recovered from the viral disease. The reason behind this complication may still be a mystery, but researchers have been inching closer to the truth.
The most recent development was made by Professor Resia Pretorius from the department of physiological science at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. In her small study, she examined blood samples from 11 people with long COVID, and 13 from those who were healthy. She then uncovered that those suffering from prolonged symptoms also have an increased amount of inflammatory molecules which are trapped inside microscopic blood clots. Pretorius explained:
We found high levels of various inflammatory molecules trapped in micro clots present in the blood of individuals with Long COVID. Some of the trapped molecules contain clotting proteins such as fibrinogen, as well as alpha(2)-antiplasmin.
Micro blood clots
According to News-Medical.Net, when one is injured, the plasmin-antiplasmin system thickens blood to prevent blood loss. Through the process of fibrinolysis, the body then breaks down the fibrin in the blood to prevent blood clots from forming.
However, with high levels of alpha(2)-antiplasmin, the body’s ability to stop the formation of blood clots gets severely restricted. Consequently, more blood clots lead to a higher disruption in the distribution of oxygen and other nutrients. This could be the reason why symptoms like fatigue, headaches, and shortness of breath persist long after a person has recovered from COVID.
As of now, Pretorius says that her findings need to be confirmed with a larger study, but her work has been published in the journal of Cardiovascular Diabetology.