New Study Sheds More Light on AstraZeneca Blood Clots

Credit: National Institutes of Health

A UK study has furthered the understanding of the novel blood-clotting condition associated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

Vaccine-induced immune thrombocytopenia and thrombosis (VITT) is characterised by a blockage of veins and a marked platelet reduction. The rare condition was first identified in the UK by Professor Marie Scully (University College of London Institute of Cardiovascular Science), also a Consultant Haematologist at UCLH, and Dr Will Lester from University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.

In a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the first 220 cases of definite and probable VITT in the UK are detailed.

The cases were presented by 182 consultant haematologists, and builds on understanding about the condition outlined in an April 2021 NEJM paper led by Professor Scully.

Meanwhile, a study led by Dr Richard Perry (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology and UCLH) published in the Lancet earlier this month provided the most detailed observations so far of cases of cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT). one of the commonest and severest manifestations of VITT.

The overall mortality rate of those presenting to hospitals with definite or probable VITT was 23%, the paper reported. The condition almost entirely manifested between five and 30 days after their first vaccination, with no sex differences seen, and no predisposing prior medical conditions.

The chances of death increased significantly the lower the platelet count and the greater the activation of the blood clotting system, increasing to 73% in patients with a very low platelet count and intracranial haemorrhage following blood clots in the brain.

Overall, 41% of patients had no previous medical diagnoses and 85% were less than 60 years old. Overall incidence in individuals under 50 was estimated to be 1 in 50 000 – in line with reports from other countries.

Though optimal treatment was still uncertain, it was being continually refined in real time, the researchers wrote. For instance, the introduction of the use of plasma exchange in the most severe cases has led to survival rates that were significantly better than would be predicted based on baseline characteristics.

The research adds to evidence for use of non-heparin-based blood thinners to tackle blood clotting in cases of VITT, and that use of intravenous immunoglobin was associated with better outcomes.

Professor Scully said: “As a new condition we are still learning about how best to diagnose and manage VITT, but as time goes on, we have been able to refine our treatment approaches and improve rates of survival and chance of recovery. This continuous learning in real time has been made possible thanks to collaboration between colleagues across the UK.”

Lead author Dr Sue Pavord, at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have worked relentlessly to understand and manage this new condition, so that the hugely successful vaccine roll out can continue, which is the most viable solution to the global pandemic.”

Source: University College London

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