Scientists believe they have solved the mystery behind the extremely rare blood clots caused by the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
A team of international experts, involving researchers from AstraZeneca, say that in a very small number of cases, the vaccine can set off a chain reaction which leads to the body confusing its own blood platelets for fragments of virus.
Vaccines derived from chimpanzee adenovirus Y25 (ChAdOx1), human adenovirus type 26 (HAdV-D26), and human adenovirus type 5 (HAdV-C5) are critical in combatting the severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic. As part of the largest vaccination campaign in history, ultrarare side effects not seen in phase 3 trials, including thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), a rare condition resembling heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT), have been observed. This study demonstrates that all three adenoviruses deployed as vaccination vectors versus SARS-CoV-2 bind to platelet factor 4 (PF4), a protein implicated in the pathogenesis of HIT. We have determined the structure of the ChAdOx1 viral vector and used it in state-of-the-art computational simulations to demonstrate an electrostatic interaction mechanism with PF4, which was confirmed experimentally by surface plasmon resonance. These data confirm that PF4 is capable of forming stable complexes with clinically relevant adenoviruses, an important step in unraveling the mechanisms underlying TTS.