25 September 2020
Autoimmune antibodies present in severe COVID-19
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- One in ten people with life-threatening COVID-19 may have an autoimmune response to the infection.
- Latest confirmed COVID-19 infection numbers from around Australia.
- Around one in ten individuals with severe COVID-19 appear to be generating antibodies against their own immune response to the virus, according to a study published in Science.
The study, which is the first paper to come from the international COVID Human Genetic Effort project to understand the virus and disease from a genetic viewpoint, looked for autoimmune antibodies against a class of immune signalling proteins called interferons, which the immune system produces in response to viral infection.
Autoimmune response against type 1 interferons had been previously seen in three people with severe COVID-19, so researchers then looked for antibodies against these interferons in 987 individuals hospitalised with life-threatening COVID-19 pneumonia, 663 individuals with mild or asymptomatic COVID-19, and 1227 healthy control samples collected before the pandemic.
This revealed that 135 (13.7%) of the individuals with severe COVID-19 had neutralising antibodies against at least one type 1 interferon, compared to just 0.33% of individuals in the healthy control group. The antibody-positive group also contained a much higher proportion of men than the group of patients with severe COVID-19 but without these antibodies.
Even though SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t generate strong type 1 interferon response, the authors suggested that these interferons were critical for immune response to infection.
“The neutralizing auto-Abs against type I IFNs, like inborn errors of type I IFN production, tip the balance in favor of the virus, resulting in devastating disease, with insufficient, and even perhaps deleterious, innate and adaptive immune responses,” they wrote.
The finding could have implications for management and treatment of COVID-19. The authors suggested it could be used to screen for patients likely to experience more life-threatening illness, but also meant individuals with these neutralising antibodies should be excluded from donating convalescent plasma.
- Here are the latest confirmed COVID-19 infection figures from around Australia to 9pm Thursday:
National – 26,983, with 861 deaths.
ACT – 113 (0)
NSW – 4213 (1)
NT – 33 (0)
QLD – 1153 (0)
SA – 468 (1)
TAS – 230 (0)
VIC – 20,105 (12)
WA – 668 (3)