Sep
05
2020

How to Manage Clot Formation with Covid-19

A publication in the Canadian Medical Association Journal describes how to manage clot formation with Covid-19. A significant amount of cases among Covid-19 patients come down with clotting problems. This means that an infection with SARS-CoV-2 (or Covid-19 coronavirus) may initially present with a fever and cough. But a few days later it can suddenly turn into a dangerous disease with severe clots, multiple organ failures and death.

Clot occurrence with Covid-19

It is important to realize that most patients with SARS-CoV-2 do not need hospitalization. But physicians admit 10 to 15% of patients to the hospital. Of these 20% end up with treatment in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Of all the hospitalized patients between 5% and 30% develop some form of thrombotic event. Notably, complications of clot formation can be a stroke, a heart attack, a pulmonary embolism or a deep vein thrombosis in the leg. In a recent study from the US 400 random hospitalized patients with Covid-19 144 patients were admitted to the ICU. 4.8% had radiologically confirmed deep vein thrombosis. Overall there were 9.5% with thrombotic events that developed during the hospital stay.

How does a coagulopathy develop with Covid-19?

Truly, SARS-CoV-2 enters the body cells through an interaction of its viral spike protein with the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor. To explain, numerous organs and tissues express this receptor. This includes lung alveolar type 2 epithelial cells, endothelium, the brain, heart and kidneys. To emphasize, ACE2 leads to angiotensin II degradation. With the SARS-CoV-2 stimulation of the ACE2 receptor there may be an accumulation of angiotensin II, which causes a procoagulant state. Injury of the endothelium explains inflammation in the lining of the blood vessels in multiple organs. Commonly affected organs are lungs, heart, kidneys and intestines. The inflammatory reaction is what can lead to clot formation. When part of an organ has died off because of mini clots that destroyed part of the organ, this process can eventually lead to organ failure. Lung failure, heart failure and kidney failure can develop in these sick patients.

Adequate vitamin D blood levels are important for the immune system

By all means, vitamin D is very important for the integrity of the immune system. With vitamin D blood levels below 15 to 20 ng/mL (37.5–50 nmol/L) the immune system is paralyzed, and any viral or bacterial infection tends to overwhelm the body. Of course, this is the reason why the mortality due to Covid-19 coronavirus is highest in patients with these low vitamin D blood levels. People with secondary illnesses (diabetes, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, cancer) and patients above the age of 60 have the lowest vitamin D blood levels and have the highest mortality rates. This publication describes this in more detail.

Best vitamin D blood level is in the upper normal range (50-80 ng/mL)

Above a vitamin D blood level of 30 ng/mL (=75 nmol/L) a patient’s immune system is functioning normally. However, the immune system is strongest at a vitamin D blood level of 50–80 ng/mL (125–200 nmol/L), which is the upper range of the normal level for vitamin D in the blood.

Keep in mind that vitamin D toxicity occurs only above 150 ng/mL (375 nmol/L).

Specific effects of vitamin D on Covid-19

There are three major effects that vitamin D has.

  1. A strengthening of the epithelial barrier not allowing the coronavirus to penetrate into the lung tissue as easily.
  2. Release of defensins and cathelicidin, two crucial antiviral polypeptides that eradicate any virus in the system.
  3. Interruption of the “cytokine storm”, an overwhelming inflammation which is responsible for viral pneumonia to develop. Without the cytokine storm there is no damage to the lungs and people do not need treatment in the ICU. This is particularly important for people above the age of 60 and for people with pre-existing diseases.

In like manner, with the stabilizing effect of vitamin D regarding the immune function more severe forms of Covid-19 can turn into less severe forms with a better outcome.

Treatment of patients with Covid-19 who have clotting problems

Patients need to be assessed with respect to their risk of developing clots. This publication describes that high risk patients have elevated D-dimer levels. When blood clots dissolve the body produces D-dimer, a protein fragment. Normally the D-dimer test is negative in a person that does not produce clots. But in sick patients with Covid-19 who form clots this blood test typically shows D-dimer >2500 ng/mL. In addition the tests show high platelet counts (more than 450 × 109/L), C-reactive protein (CRP) >100 mg/L and an erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) >40 mm/h.

Indeed, with this constellation of blood tests in a severe Covid-19 case in the ICU setting, the physician uses heparin intravenously or subcutaneously to counter clot formation. However, this needs to be balanced against the risk of causing severe internal bleeding.

Separate from the anticoagulant effect, heparin seems to also suppress inflammatory cytokine levels. In addition, heparin suppresses neutrophil chemotaxis and migration. Physicians rescued many patients from death using heparin therapy.

Risk versus benefit clinical trials of heparin therapy are required

At this point there are only retrospective clinical trials available to describe risk versus benefit of heparin therapy. Some show no difference, others do. There are two international clinical trials on their way to shed more light on this situation. Until the results of these clinical trials are available, physicians need to treat patients to the best of their knowledge.

How to Manage Clot Formation with Covid-19

How to Manage Clot Formation with Covid-19

Conclusion

Clot formation in sick Covid-19 patients is responsible for many deaths in Covid-19 patients. The SARS-CoV-2 (or Covid-19 coronavirus) causes a cytokine storm with injury to the lining of the arteries. This can affect multiple vital organs and the condition may lead to organ failure. This activates the clotting system and causes clots all over the body. When this process occurs, patients get very sick and the death rate climbs. Physicians were able to rescue some patients with heparin therapy. Two international clinical trials are on the way. Hopefully  these trials answer questions about this newer treatment method. The downside of heparin therapy is the complication of massive bleeding, which causes deaths as well. When it comes to Covid-19, don’t rely on curative medicine. Strengthen your immune system by preventative therapy like vitamin D3 that can interrupt the cytokine storm.

And even with a “well-prepared” immune system it is extremely important to follow all the guidelines of distancing, disinfecting and wearing face masks. We need all the help we can get!

Part of this was previously published here.

 

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About Ray Schilling

Dr. Ray Schilling born in Tübingen, Germany and Graduated from Eberhard-Karls-University Medical School, Tuebingen in 1971. Once Post-doctoral cancer research position holder at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto, is now a member of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M).