Challenging the current hypothesis that thrombosis is responsible for the post-COVID-19 condition

15 May 2024


People with the post-COVID-19 condition suffer symptoms that persist beyond 12 weeks following acute COVID-19 infection. Fatigue, shortness of breath, and cognitive dysfunction (“brain fog”) are common. Scientists, clinicians, and patients debate the pathophysiology. One pathophysiological hypothesis is that prothrombotic changes associated with acute COVID-19 persist, causing clots that lead to symptoms. This theory, arising from a research team in South Africa and supported by a paper in Nature Medicine, has been widely disseminated on social media and entered the public narrative as a cause of the post-COVID-19 condition.

We describe the development of this theory, examine the findings of a Cochrane review that critically appraises the “microclot” beliefs, and critically appraise the influential study relating clotting biomarkers to cognitive deficits. We conclude the inferences for the hypothesis are not based on evidence, unlicensed use of antithrombotic medication is not justified, and apheresis should not be considered outside of a well-designed clinical trial.


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