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Wisconsin scientists discover hospitalized COVID-19 patients with high cholesterol are 2.3X more likely to die from COVID

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Posted at 9:00 AM, Feb 06, 2022

WAUWATOSA — Groundbreaking COVID-19 research is taking place at The Medical College of Wisconsin. 

Using patient-protected data of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, researchers with The Medical College of Wisconsin found people with high cholesterol levels are 2.3 times more likely to die from COVID.

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“COVID-19 really pulled our attention, because the blood clots can happen, not only as heart attack or stroke, but also as very small blood clots and (cause) organ damages," lead researcher Dr. Ze. Zheng explains.

Dr. Zheng says this may explain why some COVID patients with even mild symptoms are losing their taste of smell.

“The loss of smell may also be caused by small clots that develop in the brain as well,” Dr. Zheng said.

She and her team of researchers found symptoms become more deadly in people with dangerously high cholesterol. More specifically, triglyceride levels, which are a type of fat in your blood. Too much can increase the chance of blood clots, which was happening in our most vulnerable hospitalized COVID patients.

In the past year, scientists believe they have discovered why. S protein called tPA stops fat in your blood from building up and cause dangerous blood clots. The COVID-19 virus is stopping this protein from working.

Dr. Zu Zhang says this causes the clots to keep forming, and killing vulnerable patients.

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Research assistant Maya Rodriguez analyzed the COVID-19 mortality rate based on race alone. She found Asian and Non-White Hispanics were about four times more likely to die of COVID overall, compared to hospitalized white patients.

“We’re still really interested in finding out what could be the possible factors that could be causing this high likelihood for mortality,” said Rodriguez.

None of this would have been possible, without a more than $30,000 grant from the Steve Cullen Healthy Heart Club Run/Walk. They are hoping to raise more money for life-saving research like this at the Medical College in Wisconsin with their 25th annual event. It is taking place Saturday, February 12 in Wauwatosa. Click here to learn more.

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