Project Title

Understanding what might cause fatal thrombosis in extreme COVID-19 cases

Project Summary

COVID-19 has become one of the deadliest pandemics since the influenza pandemic of 1918-1920. At the time of writing, global infection numbers stand at 198 million with over 4.2 million confirmed deaths. Mortality rate in most affected countries is approximately 2% but in selected countries it can be as high as 7-8 %; this is compared to a 0.1% mortality rate caused by the seasonal influenza.

Infected persons undergo multiple physiological assaults, including thrombosis and often require treatment in intensive care units (ICU). PBI researchers believe a group of related blood proteins are key to understanding the severity of the disease. Namely, the interaction of the SARS-CoV-2 virus with blood proteins vWF, PF4 and ADAMTS13 results in the production of dangerous antibodies that circulate in the blood, leading to fatal thrombosis in extreme cases. 

Our collaborators Prof. James O’Donnell and Dr. Soracha Ward from the University of Medicine and Health Sciences in Ireland have collected precious blood samples from COVID-19 intensive care unit patients at multiple time points to study the fundamental causes of death and disease progression. This project pivots the vWF expertise in Ireland with PBI researcher’s track record on the molecular characterisation of coagulation cascade proteins, including a group of potent gene regulators called microRNAs. 

Using the COVID-19 patient samples, several lines of investigation will be followed, including: 1. protein interaction, 2. formation of dangerous antibodies that induces clot formation and 3. identification of molecular regulators/biomarkers involved. Together, they will address a knowledge gap in the interplay between COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 and thrombosis and haemostasis. 

Blood Disorder

  • COVID-microvascular thrombosis and thrombocytopenia

Number of Patients

  • Initial pilot study involving 30 ICU patients admitted following COVID-19 infection

Partner Organisations

University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ireland