Breakthrough: Scientists uncover fatal blood clot disorder tied to COVID vaccines

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Breakthrough research links PF4 antibodies in vaccine-induced thrombosis and common cold infections.

ADELAIDE, May 27: New research conducted by Flinders University and global specialists has shed light on the molecular similarities between dangerous PF4 antibodies associated with vaccine-induced thrombosis (VITT) and similar disorders stemming from common cold infections. The findings, published in the renowned New England Journal of Medicine, carry significant implications for future vaccine development and disease management.

During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, VITT emerged as a new condition linked to adenovirus vector-based vaccines, notably the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. This condition was found to be caused by a highly dangerous blood autoantibody targeting a protein known as platelet factor 4 (PF4).

Building upon previous research led by Flinders University researchers Dr. Jing Jing Wang and Professor Tom Gordon, Head of Immunology at SA Pathology in South Australia, which deciphered the molecular code of the PF4 antibody, the recent study delves deeper into the molecular structures of these antibodies.

Collaborating with international researchers from Canada, North America, Germany, and Italy, the Flinders group discovered that PF4 antibodies in both adenovirus infection-associated VITT and classic adenoviral vectored VITT share identical molecular fingerprints or signatures.

Dr. Wang, the lead author of the study, highlighted the implications of these findings for vaccine development, stating, “These findings, using a completely new approach for targeting blood antibodies developed at Flinders University, indicate a common triggering factor on virus and vaccine structures that initiates the pathological PF4 antibodies.”

Professor Gordon emphasized the clinical significance of the research, stating, “Indeed, the pathways of lethal antibody production in these disorders must be virtually identical and have similar genetic risk factors. Our findings have the important clinical implication that lessons learned from VITT apply to rare cases of blood clotting after adenovirus (a common cold) infections, as well as having implications for vaccine development.”

The study, titled “Antibody Fingerprints Linking Adenoviral Anti-PF4 Disorders,” was published on May 15, 2024, in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The research received support from the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) and a European Medicines Agency service contract. Dr. Schönborn received support from the ASH Global Research Award from the American Society of Hematology and the Gerhard Domagk Research Program through the Medical University of Greifswald. Dr. Wang’s work was supported by a Flinders Foundation Health Seed Grant.

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