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Scientists explain the main reason for Low blood-oxygen levels in COVID-19 patients

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The coronavirus infects immature red blood cells, reducing oxygen transport and weakening the immune response.

Biologists from the University of Alberta in Canada have found out the reason for the decrease in blood oxygen levels in coronavirus patients, and also explained the effectiveness of the use of dexamethasone during treatment. 

An article with the results of the study was published in the journal Reports Stem Cell, according to the website of the educational institution.

As you know, one of the main symptoms of COVID-19 – a decrease in the level of oxygen in the blood, is observed in almost all infected people, even in those who have a mild disease. 

“Low blood-oxygen levels have been a significant problem in COVID-19 patients,” says study lead Shokrollah Elahi, associate professor of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry.

“Because of that, we thought one potential mechanism might be that COVID-19 impacts red blood cell production.”

Canadian scientists examined the blood of 128 patients with COVID-19, among whom were patients in intensive care units, people with moderate symptoms, and those who had a mild illness. 

They found that as the severity of symptoms increased, patients had more immature, newly formed red blood cells in their blood. 

In severe patients with coronavirus, the volume of these cells in the blood reached 60%. At the same time, in healthy people, immature erythrocytes are in the bone marrow, and in the blood, they are absent or make up less than 1%. 

“This indicates that the virus is impacting the source of these cells. As a result, and to compensate for the depletion of healthy immature red blood cells, the body is producing significantly more of them in order to provide enough oxygen for the body,” explains the study lead author.

The problem is that only mature red blood cells carry oxygen, which live on average for about 120 days, and immature red blood cells are very susceptible to coronavirus infection. 

As the virus attacks and destroys immature red blood cells, the body cannot replace dead mature red blood cells and the ability to carry oxygen in the bloodstream is reduced. 

After the discovery of receptors in immature red blood cells that allow them to become infected with the coronavirus, scientists began testing various existing drugs that could affect this. 

In the course of experiments, it was found that dexamethasone has the desired property, which has been widely used over the past year to treat COVID-19. 

The authors emphasized that this is a great success when there is no need to create a new drug, but an already proven remedy turned out to be effective.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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