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COVID can induce Arthritis-like self-attacking antibodies even if one had mild or no symptoms

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Self-attacking antibodies can infect healthy organs and tissues of a person who had a coronavirus, even if the disease was mild.

When a person becomes infected with a virus or other pathogen, their bodies release proteins known as antibodies, which identify foreign things and prevent them from infiltrating the cells of the body.

Some people, on the other hand, develop autoantibodies, which can damage the body’s own organs and tissues over time.

During their research, the Cedars-Sinai experts discovered that individuals who had previously been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, have a wide variety of autoantibodies for up to six months after they have fully recovered.

Prior to this study, researchers were aware that severe cases of COVID-19 can cause the immune system to become overworked, resulting in the production of autoantibodies.

For the first time, researchers have documented not only the development of increased autoantibodies following a mild or asymptomatic infection, but also the persistence of these antibodies throughout time.

“These findings help to explain what makes COVID-19 an especially unique disease,” says Justyna Fert-Bober, co-senior author of the study. “These patterns of immune dysregulation could be underlying the different types of persistent symptoms we see in people who go on to develop the condition now referred to as long COVID-19.”

177 people who had been infected with SARS-CoV-2 were chosen by the Cedars-Sinai research team to be part of their study. Before the pandemic, they compared the blood samples from these patients to those from healthy persons. All of the people who had confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections had high levels of autoantibodies. These antibodies have also been detected in persons with disorders like Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis, in which the immune system targets its own healthy cells.

“We found signals of autoantibody activity that are usually linked to chronic inflammation and injury involving specific organ systems and tissues such as the joints, skin and nervous system,” adds Susan Cheng, co-senior author of the study.

Some of the autoantibodies have been associated with autoimmune diseases that often affect women more than men. Men, on the other hand, had a higher number of increased autoantibodies in this study than women.

“On the one hand, this finding is paradoxical given that autoimmune conditions are usually more common in females,” Fert-Bober added. “On the other hand, it is also somewhat expected given all that we know about males being more vulnerable to the most severe forms of COVID-19.”

The researchers want to broaden the study to find out what kinds of autoantibodies are present and remain in persons who have long-term COVID-19 symptoms.

Due to the fact that this study involved individuals who were sick before to the development of vaccinations, the researchers will also evaluate whether autoantibodies are similarly formed in individuals who get breakthrough infections.

“If we can better understand these autoantibody responses, and how it is that SARS-CoV-2 infection triggers and drives these variable responses, then we can get one step closer to identifying ways to treat and even prevent these effects from developing in people at risk,” Cheng added.

Source: 10.1186/s12967-021-03184-8

Image Credit: Getty

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