According to an international team of researchers from Cardiff and the US, the reaction can be traced to the way the adenovirus used by the vaccine to shuttle the coronavirus’ genetic material into cells binds with a specific protein in the blood, known as platelet factor 4 (PF4).
Researchers think this may spark a chain reaction in the immune system which can culminate in the development of blood clots – a condition known as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT).
We hope our findings can be used to better understand the rare side effects of these new vaccines – and potentially to design new and improved vaccines to turn the tide on this global pandemic
Prof Alan Parker, Cardiff University
Professor Alan Parker from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, said: “VITT only happens in extremely rare cases because a chain of complex events needs to take place to trigger this ultra-rare side effect.
“Our data confirms PF4 can bind to adenoviruses, an important step in unravelling the mechanism underlying VITT. Establishing a mechanism could help to prevent and treat this disorder.
“We hope our findings can be used to better understand the rare side effects of these new vaccines – and potentially to design new and improved vaccines to turn the tide on this global pandemic,” he added.
Scientists from AstraZeneca also took part in the research, which was published in the journal Science Advances.
A spokeswoman for the company told the BBC: “Although the research is not definitive, it offers interesting insights and AstraZeneca is exploring ways to leverage these findings as part of our efforts to remove this extremely rare side effect.”