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COVID-19, immunothrombosis and venous thromboembolism: biological mechanisms
  1. Joan Loo1,
  2. Daniella A Spittle2,
  3. Michael Newnham3
  1. 1 College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2 Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  3. 3 Institute of Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Michael Newnham, Institute of Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK; m.newnham{at}


Thrombotic events that frequently occur in COVID-19 are predominantly venous thromboemboli (VTE) and are associated with increasing disease severity and worse clinical outcomes. Distinctive microvascular abnormalities in COVID-19 include endothelial inflammation, disruption of intercellular junctions and microthrombi formation. A distinct COVID-19-associated coagulopathy along with increased cytokines and activation of platelets, endothelium and complement occur in COVID-19, which is more frequent with worsening disease severity. This proinflammatory milieu may result in immunothrombosis, a host defence mechanism that can become dysregulated, leading to excess formation of immunologically mediated thrombi which predominantly affect the microvasculature. The haemostatic and immune systems are intricately linked, and multifactorial processes are likely to contribute to VTE and immunothrombosis in COVID-19. This state-of-the-art review will explore the pathobiological mechanisms of immunothrombosis and VTE in COVID-19 focusing on: COVID-19-associated coagulopathy, pathology, endothelial dysfunction and haemostasis, the immune system and thrombosis, genetic associations and additional thrombotic mechanisms. An understanding of the complex interplay between these processes is necessary for developing and assessing how new treatments affect VTE and immunothrombosis in COVID-19.

  • pulmonary embolism
  • innate immunity
  • viral infection
  • cytokine biology
  • respiratory infection

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  • Contributors JL undertook the literature search, co-wrote the first draft and prepared the final draft. DAS co-wrote the first draft and prepared the final draft and figures. MN conceived the idea for the manuscript, co-wrote the first draft and prepared the final draft.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.