A scientist in South Africa believes she and her colleagues have found a critical clue in solving the mystery of long COVID-19: microclots.
“A recent study in my lab revealed that there is significant microclot formation in the blood of both acute COVID-19 and long COVID patients,” Resia Pretorius, head of the science department at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, wrote Wednesday in an op-ed.
Pretorius writes that healthy bodies are typically able to efficiently break down blood clots through a process called fibrinolysis. But, when looking at blood from long COVID-19 patients, “persistent microclots are resistant to the body’s own fibrinolytic processes.”
Pretorius’ team in an analysis over the summer found high levels of inflammatory molecules “trapped” in the persistent microclots observed in long COVID-19 patients, which may be preventing the breakdown of clots.
Because of that, cells in the body’s tissues may not be getting enough oxygen to sustain regular bodily functions, a condition known as cellular hypoxia.
“Widespread hypoxia may be central to the numerous reported debilitating symptoms” of long COVID-19, Pretorius writes.
As many as 100 million people globally have or have had long COVID-19, according to a study by researchers at the University of Michigan in November.