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Study announced into potential link between Covid-19 and strokes

Photo: PA Wire/Simon Dawson

By Jess Glass
A large-scale research project has been launched to investigate a potential link between Covid-19 and strokes.

The UK’s Stroke Association has said it is funding the world’s largest research study to investigate reports that Covid-19 may cause life-threatening strokes.

The study will use health data from nearly all UK adults to compare strokes in patients who have tested positive for the virus compared to those without it to establish if Covid-19 increases the risk and by how much.

Researchers will also analyse the risk of stroke with factors such as age, sex and ethnicity to attempt to identify which coronavirus patients may be at the highest risk.

Dr Rubina Ahmed, the Stroke Association’s research director said the study was crucial but also “just the tip of the iceberg”.

She said: “Stroke already strikes every five minutes and we’re extremely concerned that Covid-19 may lead to more strokes, destroying more lives.

“Equally concerning are reports that stroke patients who have Covid-19 may be younger, and experience more severe effects of stroke, including death.

“Severe illness due to Covid-19 is a challenge enough but it’s worrying that a deadly stroke might also be on the way.

“This new research can help guide the development of new treatments that can prevent life-threatening strokes.”

The research will use data from the British Heart Foundation Data Science Centre, based at Health Data Research UK.

The charity estimates that each year 100,000 people in the UK have a stroke, meaning there are more than 1.2 million survivors in the country.

David Kirton, 64, from South Shields, South Tyneside, had a stroke shortly after being treated for Covid-19.

Mr Kirton said: “We think my stroke was linked with the effect Covid-19 has on the blood.

“Because it was so early in the pandemic, I don’t think they were prepared for people having strokes.

“They just knew something was wrong and were trying whatever they could think of to find out what the problem was.
“It was absolutely terrifying.”

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