Interactions of adenoviruses with platelets and coagulation and the vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia syndrome

Haematologica. 2021 Dec 1;106(12):3034-3045. doi: 10.3324/haematol.2021.279289.


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a heavy impact on global health and economy and vaccination remains the primary way of controlling the infection. During the ongoing vaccination campaign some unexpected thrombotic events have emerged in subjects who had recently received the AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria) vaccine or the Johnson and Johnson (Janssen) vaccine, two adenovirus vector-based vaccines. Epidemiological studies confirm that the observed/expected ratio of these unusual thromboses is abnormally increased, especially in women in fertile age. The characteristics of this complication, with venous thromboses at unusual sites, most frequently in the cerebral vein sinuses but also in splanchnic vessels, often with multiple associated thromboses, thrombocytopenia, and sometimes disseminated intravascular coagulation, are unique and the time course and tumultuous evolution are suggestive of an acute immunological reaction. Indeed, plateletactivating anti-PF4 antibodies have been detected in a large proportion of the affected patients. Several data suggest that adenoviruses may interact with platelets, the endothelium and the blood coagulation system. Here we review interactions between adenoviral vectors and the hemostatic system that are of possible relevance in vaccine-associated thrombotic thrombocytopenia syndrome. We systematically analyze the clinical data on the reported thrombotic complications of adenovirus-based therapeutics and discuss all the current hypotheses on the mechanisms triggering this novel syndrome. Although, considering current evidence, the benefit of vaccination clearly outweighs the potential risks, it is of paramount importance to fully unravel the mechanisms leading to vaccineassociated thrombotic thrombocytopenia syndrome and to identify prognostic factors through further research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenoviridae
  • Blood Coagulation
  • Blood Platelets
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • COVID-19*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Thrombocytopenia* / etiology
  • Thrombosis* / etiology
  • Vaccines*


  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Vaccines