DEADLY blood clots invade coronavirus patients' lungs which can kill them, doctors are warning.
Irish researchers found that in severe cases of Covid-19, the deadly disease can trigger hundreds of small blockages in the lungs.
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And they say these clots may then damage lung function, which is "undoubtedly" causing deaths.
It comes as the number of deaths from coronavirus in the UK has risen to 26,097, with the worldwide death toll standing at over 228,000.
Scientists from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) made the revelation after examining 83 severe Covid-19 patients at St James's Hospital in Dublin.
On average, the patients were 64 years old, and 80 per cent had underlying health conditions.
More than a quarter (27 per cent) were admitted to intensive time during their illness – and, at the time of the publication, 60 per cent had recovered and 15.7 per cent of patients died.
This undoubtedly contributes to the high levels of mortality being seen in patients with Covid-19
During the study, which was carried out by the RCSI's Irish Centre for Vascular Biology (ICVB) and St James's Hospital, doctors measured various aspects of the patients' blood to see how quickly it clots.
And the results revealed that patients with higher levels of blood clotting had a significantly worse prognosis and were more likely to require intensive care.
Professor James O'Donnell, director of the ICVB said: "Our novel findings demonstrate that Covid-19 is associated with a unique type of blood-clotting disorder that is primarily focused within the lungs and which undoubtedly contributes to the high levels of mortality being seen in patients with Covid-19."
Prof O'Donnell, a consultant haematologist with the National Coagulation Centre at St James's Hospital, said this scenario is not seen with other types of lung infection.
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"In addition to pneumonia affecting the small air sacs within the lungs, we are also finding hundreds of small blood clots throughout the lungs," he added.
"This explains why blood oxygen levels fall dramatically in severe Covid-19 infection.
"Understanding how these micro-clots are being formed within the lung is critical so that we can develop more effective treatments for our patients, particularly those in high risk groups.
"Further studies will be required to investigate whether different blood-thinning treatments may have a role in selected high-risk patients in order to reduce the risk of clot formation."
Emerging evidence also shows that the abnormal blood-clotting problem in Covid-19 results in a significantly increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
The authors of the paper, published in the British Journal of Haematology, said its not clear how coronavirus triggers blood clotting, but one theory rests on ACE2 receptors.
ACE2 receptors have been said to work as the coronavirus's doorway into the body and to 'facilitate' infection.
Another theory is that clots are formed as a result of a an immune overreaction called a cytokine storm.
This is where the body’s immune system goes into overdrive, and in an effort to battle the virus can actually make the patient even more poorly and the prognosis bleaker.
Chinese people are at a lower risk of blood clots generally, likely due to genetic differences.
It could even help explain why the coronavirus appears to be deadlier in Europe in comparison to countries like China, experts say.
The deaths per 100,000 people in the US was 15.27 on April 24, compared with a mere 0.33 in China, according to mortality analyses by Johns Hopkins University.
Last week, medics in New York revealed coronavirus can cause blood clots and sudden strokes in young, healthy patients.
They said they have seen a sevenfold increase in stroke cases in people in their 30s and 40s who either had mild or no Covid-19 symptoms at all.
Dr Thomas Oxley, a neurosurgeon in the Mount Sinai Health System in New York, said his team usually treat less than two stroke patients under the age of 50 every month.
But in the last two weeks they have seen five young coronavirus patients who suffered a sudden stroke despite being otherwise well.
Dr Oxley told CNN: "The virus seems to be causing increased clotting in the large arteries, leading to severe stroke.
"Our report shows a seven-fold increase in incidence of sudden stroke in young patients during the past two weeks.
"Most of these patients have no past medical history and were at home with either mild symptoms (or in two cases, no symptoms) of Covid.
"All tested positive. Two of them delayed calling an ambulance."
Doctors have also warned that younger people are less likely to call emergency services over fears hospitals are overstretched due to coronavirus.
But they have urged them to do so as delaying treatment could lead to long-term damage or even death.
It's not common for young people to suffer from strokes, especially in the large vessels in the brain.
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