Some Irish patients admitted to hospital with severe Covid-19 infection are suffering abnormal blood clotting that contributes to death, new research has revealed.
The study, led by clinician scientists at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, found that abnormal blood clotting occurs in patients with severe Covid-19 infection, causing micro-clots within the lungs.
They also found Irish patients with higher levels of blood clotting had a significantly worse prognosis and were more likely to require intensive care admission.
The study, carried out by the Irish Centre for Vascular Biology, Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI), and St James's Hospital, Dublin, is published in the current edition of the 'British Journal of Haematology'.
Consultant haematologist Prof James O'Donnell, director of the Irish Centre for Vascular Biology, RCSI, said: "Our novel findings demonstrate that Covid-19 is associated with a unique type of blood-clotting disorder that is primarily focused within the lungs.
"It undoubtedly contributes to the high levels of mortality being seen in patients with Covid-19.
"In addition to pneumonia affecting the small air sacs within the lungs, we are also finding hundreds of small blood clots throughout the lungs," he said.
This scenario is not seen with other types of lung infection, and explains why blood oxygen levels fall dramatically in severe Covid-19 infection.
"Understanding how these micro-clots are being formed within the lung is critical so we can develop more effective treatments for our patients, particularly those in high-risk groups," said Prof O'Donnell.
"Further studies will be required to investigate whether different blood-thinning treatments may have a role in selected high-risk patients in order to reduce the risk of clot formation."
He said the emerging evidence also showed the abnormal blood-clotting problem in Covid-19 resulted in a significantly increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Meanwhile, the use of face masks to limit the spread of the virus could replace social distancing with social isolation for people with hearing difficulties, a University of Manchester professor has warned.
Professor Kevin Munro said that although masks may prevent the wearer from infecting others, they may prevent lip-reading and impair speech transmission.
The audiologist made five suggestions to improve communication if wearing a face mask is unavoidable, which include reducing background noise as much as possible.
He also suggested people should talk slowly and not shout.
People with a hearing aid should wear it and also consider using portable hearing amplifiers if available.
Hearing loss is associated with poor social interaction, isolation, depression and anxiety, increased risk of dementia and reduced quality of life.
The use of face masks by the public is a controversial topic and not currently supported by the World Health Organisation or the Irish Government.
Current evidence suggests that while face coverings and surgical masks - the variety typically worn by dentists - might prevent large particles spreading from an infected person wearing a mask to someone else, they do not trap tiny particles like coronavirus.
There are also concerns that, even if they are fitted correctly, a mask may increase your risk by encouraging you to touch your face more often with hands that may be contaminated.