There have been reports of mysterious clots found in bodies since the start of the COVID pandemic and scientists have found these fibrous materials can be formed from the spike protein found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. Some people can break down the clots, and others are unable.
That didn't sit well with one Birmingham doctor, who has been working around the clock for months to find out why.
Dr. Jordan Vaughn, the founder of MedHelp, has been treating patients with long-lasting effects of COVID, known as "long-hauler COVID patients." The medical breakthrough he has discovered is a genetic polymorphism found in about 90% of his long COVID patients.
Vaughn said it was important for him to look further into the cause of the clots to find a cure.
"When you start seeing young people, as well as young people that are related to each other, meaning like, I've got a 5-year-old, a 40-year-old and an 80-year-old that have the same issues and they all had the same genetic polymorphism, that explains why it runs in families," he added.
One of his patients was a perfect example. Landen Williams was only 19 years old and was a healthy young man when he was fighting for his life last year after having COVID the year before. His long COVID symptoms included stabbing chest pains, shortness of breath and fatigue. His parents feared he would never be the same and did all they could to get answers. Vaughn said one sign that Williams may have the genetic mutation was that his father was also hospitalized with COVID and nearly died.
After looking into why certain people could not break down the fibrous clots, Vaughn finally found a link.
"What we have proven is that COVID makes people make this amyloid fibrin, and that's a fibrin that doesn't break down easy," Vaughn explained. "It's really what leads to the microclots."
After studying hundreds of cases, Vaughn was able to identify that people with high numbers of Plasmin Activator Inhibitor 1 (PAI-1) 4G/5G were unable to break down clots easily. The risk level for those with this mutation also increases with age, weight and other lifestyle factors.
For Landen Williams, age and weight were not factors. He was a healthy young man with no prior health issues. Simply having the genetic mutation was enough to impact his life after COVID. Following much research, his parents found a new treatment offered in Germany and sent him to Cyprus. Dr. Beate Jeager in Mulheim, Germany. Upon his return from Cyprus, Vaughn did blood work and ran a genetic panel on Williams and confirmed he had high PAI-1 numbers and was 4G/4G homozygous, which also poses a challenge for people breaking down clots.
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Vaughn's discovery means better and more specific treatment for those like Williams, who once said he craved oxygen.
"We are really optimistic about this," said Williams. "Right now, I'm on triple therapy, which is the anti-coagulant, Jardiance and Metformin."
Landen will be on natural blood thinner, like, Neprinol, for the rest of his life, but he is seeing improvements in his condition. Physically, the dark circles under his eyes are fading, and his skin color is returning. His mom said his blood pressure is better than ever, inflammation has gone down, chest pains are dissipating, and he has less shortness of breath than before.
Landen's family is thankful for Vaughn and the many people who have had a part in helping him get back to normal.
"We were in such a desperate spot, and God got us to Dr. Vaughn, and so we want to be able to get others because we knew how we felt," said Jill Williams. "We were hopeless. We were helpless. We didn't know what to do after a year of searching. So, we know how they feel, and we know where they've been. Since we know the problem, we can work to address issues and prevent this. If we would've never known, Landen may have been 30 or 40 years old and had a massive stroke, and we would've never known why he died so suddenly and it's because his body cannot break down the clots.
Jill Williams hopes others seek answers as well.
So, what can you do if you are concerned about this genetic polymorphism?
"First of all, never get a vaccine because the vaccine itself is going to make you make this, and you can't break it down," Vaughn said. "Most people that are vaccine-injured have this issue. It is a common thing. Five percent of people is a whole hell of a lot of people, and we've told everyone it's safe and effective. It's definitely not safe, and it's going to hurt them, and it's not effective."
There are also medications that lower PIA-1, and more work is being done to find the cure for long COVID. Vaughn noted that genetic mutation is most common among whites and Asians. The University of Liverpool will publish his discovery.
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