Aspirin may turn out to be a cheap and effective way to save lives and prevent lasting damage. Illustration: Kieran Blakey
Back in April, when the first wave of Covid-19 was crashing across the U.S., Michael Mazzeffi received an email from one of his colleagues at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
“One of our surgeons said that when he was drawing blood out of a patient, it literally clotted within five seconds,” says Mazzeffi, who is chief of the division of critical care anesthesiology. “It was pretty clear early on that patients with severe Covid had clotting disorders and that their blood was super coagulable.”
Clinicians around the world noticed this same clotting phenomenon. By mid-summer, autopsies of people who had died from Covid-19 revealed that their vasculature and organs were often suffused with clots and coagulated blood. “What we saw in the Covid ICU is that a lot of the patients would start developing a lot of clotting, and this high burden would lead to multi-organ failure and eventually death,” says Jonathan Chow, MD, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Because clotting seemed to be a signature of severe or damaging Covid-19 disease, Chow and Mazzeffi started to discuss whether aspirin — a blood-thinning drug that can block the formation of clots — could help improve outcomes. “Aspirin is a very potent antiplatelet agent,” Chow explains. Platelets are blood-cell fragments that, when activated, will clump together to form clots. “As soon as aspirin interacts with a platelet, that platelet becomes inactivated and can no longer participate in the clot-generating process,” he says. Read more >>