DOCTORS believe that blood-thinning drugs could help combat the coronavirus after a number of patients experienced a drop in oxygen levels known as “happy hypoxia”.
Researchers at Imperial College London have now found a clear link between the virus and clots in the lung.
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3 Oxygen levels drop for patients with the conditionCredit: Alamy
Patients have been presenting at hospitals with dramatically low oxygen levels, which would usually leave them unable to talk – shocking doctors as they continue to be able to hold conversation and even sit up in bed in some cases.
A specialist in experimental medicine, Peter Openshaw said the condition is a “really nasty twist” that “hasn’t been seen before with other viruses”.
One senior lecturer also said that using “significant therapeutic doses of blood thinning agents could save lives”.
Brijesh Patel said that this would only work if the interventions were implemented appropriately. Dr Patel’s research, that was first reported in the Daily Telegraph, used CT scans to capture images of lung function with some of the sickest patients.
Dr Patel added that the approaches to treatment would have to be personalised.
Dr Patel said: “We’ve seen 150 patients that have come through the Royal Brompton and having had a look at many of them over the past couple of months we’ve learnt a lot.
What is happy hypoxia?Doctors treating coronavirus patients have said some have displayed signs of the silent happy hypoxia, but what is the condition?
Happy hypoxia: The condition will see the body’s oxygen concentration levels drop below 60 per cent in patients infected with the coronavirus.
Patients are not likely to feel uncomfortable at this level, which is why the condition often goes undetected.
As they won’t have symptoms, in many cases patients will continue to behave normally before passing out or collasping.
It is dangerous for Covid-19 patients as the body is deprived of oxygen, and the conditon could lead to further complications.
Signs and symptoms:
shortess of breath
changes of colour in the skin
unusally slow/fast heart rate
If you think you’re suffering signs of hypoxia you should call NHS 111 where an operator will be able to advise on your symptoms, or in an emergency dial 999.
“We have the sickest cohorts of those in intensive care because of our extracorporeal membrane oxygenation [ecmo] service, which effectively is an artificial lung where we take blood out of patients and oxygenate them outside their body. All these patients have perfusion problems in the tiny vessels of the lungs. Blood flow is decreased and it’s only visible from dual energy scans.”
He added that the team are still conducting research but said that the vessels in the lungs can be sensitive to infections or trauma, which in turn can activate an immune response which then activates a clotting system.
Speaking on the Today programme this morning Prof Openshaw said they had started working on approaches to the virus as if people had influenza type illnesses but said that novel symptoms are being picked up and that new treatments needed to be tried.
“Patients are presenting with this clotting disorder and this is contributing a lot to the disease.”
He said the team were looking into exactly what stage blood thinners should be used at, he also highlighted it was not a new cure for the illness but a part of wider research.
So far in the UK over 34,000 people have died from the coronavirus and the development could help to pinpoint what patients have the disorder.
The most common symptoms of the virus include a new persistent cough and a high temperature, but many patients have also been presenting with low oxygen levels.
As the body tries to fight the virus it activates an immune response which then in some cases is causing clots to form.
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Patients attending A&E in the UK have been coming in with oxygen percentage levels in the 80s or 70s and some have even had levels below 50 per cent.
A healthy person would have at least 95 per cent oxygen saturation and one doctor in Manchester earlier this month said it was “intriguing””to see how hypoxic some patients actually are when attending A&E.
The complication of the coronavirus could be deadly if the symptoms are not addressed at an early stage.
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