Coronavirus patients in British hospitals will be given aspirin in a new trial to find out whether the cheap drug could prevent deadly blood clotting in the lungs.
Some studies have shown that nearly 80 per cent of people who die of Covid-19 have thrombosis – or blood clotting – in the lungs, which prevents oxygen from moving through the body and can be fatal.
It is thought the virus triggers a massive boost of cytokines, a type of protein which signals to the liver that more clotting is needed, causing the ‘sticky blood’.
Scientists are hopeful that blood thinners, like aspirin, may help avoid the devastating clotting that can lead to death. If proven effective, it would be the first over-the-counter drug shown to have an impact on coronavirus.
Professor Peter Horby, of Oxford University and the chief investigator of the recovery trial, which is looking at several drugs and treatments, said aspirin had been added to their list this week.
Speaking at the Science and Technology Select Committee, Prof Horby said: “This week in Recovery we’ve just added aspirin to the trial because clotting seems to be a big problem.
“Aspirin is a very widely available, cheap drug, and if it were to work, that would be a huge treatment boost. Anti-clotting drugs are an area where we did have a gap.”
Research published late last month by the University of Maryland in the US found that coronavirus patients who were taking a daily low-dose aspirin to protect against cardiovascular disease had a significantly lower risk of complications and death than those not on the drug.
Aspirin takers were less likely to be placed in the intensive care unit or hooked up to a mechanical ventilator, and they were more likely to survive the infection compared to hospitalised patients who were not taking aspirin.
However, because the US is not conducting a trial into aspirin the findings are only observational, and it is unknown whether giving aspirin more widely would be beneficial.