Hadassah researchers discovered that patients who form fatal blood clots have an increased level of alpha defensin protein in their blood.
By MAAYAN JAFFE-HOFFMAN JUNE 16, 2020
A research team at Hadassah Medical Center has discovered what they believe causes coronavirus patients to become seriously ill and even die. They also say they have a way to treat the cause before it’s too late.
At least 30% of patients with coronavirus develop blood clots that block the flow of blood to patients’ kidneys, heart and brain, as well as the lungs, according to international research. Hadassah researchers discovered that the patients who form these fatal clots have an increased level of alpha defensin protein in their blood, explained Dr. Abd Alrauf Higavi, who directs a lab at Hadassah and has been studying blood clots for 30 years.
“Patients with mild symptoms have a low concentration of alpha defensin,” he said. “Patients with strong disease symptoms have high levels. The people who die have very high levels.”
The Hadassah team studied more than 700 blood samples from 80 patients who were admitted to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital during the first peak of the coronavirus outbreak in Israel. The results show that alpha defensin speeds up blood clot formation, which causes pulmonary embolism, heart attacks and stroke. In addition, when blood clots form in the alveoli, whose function it is to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules to and from the bloodstream, this leads to respiratory distress and eventually intubation.
Multiple studies have showed that around 80% of coronavirus patients who are intubated die.
Higavi said his team is en route to a solution: Administering the drug Colchicine to coronavirus patients.
Colchicine is an approved drug used in the prevention and treatment of gout attacks, caused by too much uric acid in the blood.
Higavi said they completed testing Colchicine on mice and found it successfully inhibited the release of alpha defensin. Now, they are waiting the necessary approvals to test it on treating human coronavirus patients.
Higavi said the clinical trials would look both at use of the drug for severe patients and administering it to patients with mild or moderate symptoms to see if its use will help decrease the chances of their developing server cases of the disease.
“The drugs available today in the blood-thinning market do not fully address this clotting, since its mechanism differs from the mechanisms for which these drugs currently exist,” Higavi said. “Resources should be diverted to finding a suitable drug for coronavirus patients.”
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