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Study suggests blood clots are a part of the Long COVID puzzle

September 1, 2023 – A brand new study links cognitive problems related to Long COVID, equivalent to brain fog, to higher levels of proteins shown to be involved in blood clotting.

Some scientists have considered the chance that tiny blood clots within the context of a COVID infection may restrict blood flow to vital organs. The authors of this latest study wrote that their findings exhibit the necessity to analyze the link between blood clots and Long COVID.

The study, conducted within the UK, was published this week within the journal Natural medicineThe researchers reviewed blood tests from 1,837 individuals who were hospitalized with COVID-19. The average age of the study participants was 58 years and 58% were men.

Participants underwent formal cognitive testing six and 12 months after hospitalization. They also reported their thoughts about their brain function after COVID-19 illness.

People with elevated protein levels on the time of their COVID-19 infection later suffered from persistent and severe memory, concentration and pondering problems. One of the proteins detected in elevated levels in affected long-COVID patients is named fibrinogen, the opposite is a protein fragment called D-dimer.

“Both fibrinogen and D-dimer are involved in blood clotting, and therefore the results support the hypothesis that blood clots are a cause of cognitive problems after COVID,” said study creator and biomedical researcher on the University of Oxford, Max Taquet, PhD, in a opinion“Fibrinogen may act directly on the brain and its blood vessels, while D-dimer often indicates blood clots in the lungs and the problems in the brain could be due to a lack of oxygen. Consistent with this possibility, people with high D-dimer levels not only had a higher risk of brain fog but also a higher risk of breathing problems.”

People with elevated D-dimer levels also reported difficulty working or keeping a job.

No association was found between elevated fibrinogen and non-cognitive long-COVID symptoms equivalent to fatigue, shortness of breath, difficulty exercising, pain, depression or anxiety.

Researchers found a link between elevated D-dimer levels, fatigue and shortness of breath.

Understanding the causes of brain fog and other cognitive problems affecting individuals with long COVID is a very important step toward treatment or prevention, the authors wrote. For example, further studies could include brain imaging, which could make clear whether it will be helpful to provide blood-thinning medications during an energetic COVID infection, the authors suggested.

They found that elevated protein levels weren't related to people having cognitive problems before COVID infection.