Covid-19 can make patients’ immune systems attack their own bodies, study warns


From a fever to a loss of sense of smell, coronavirus is known to be associated with a range of unpleasant symptoms.

Now, a new study has warned that Covid-19 can also make some patients’ immune systems attack their own bodies.

Researchers from Emory University claim that ‘autoreactive antibodies’ have been appearing in some Covid-19 patients.

Rather than targeting the virus, these autoreactive antibodies appear to target healthy tissues.

Writing for The Conversation, Matthew Woodruff, an author of the study, said: “In a newly released study awaiting peer-review, we describe the alarming finding that in the sickest patients with COVID-19, autoantibody production is common – a finding with large potential impact on both acute patient care and infection recovery.”

Coronavirus patient

In the study, the team analysed 52 Covid-19 patients in intensive care, who did not have a history of autoimmune disease.

Their analysis revealed that more than half tested positive for autoantibodies.

Mr Woodruff explained: “In patients with the highest levels of c-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) in the blood, more than two-thirds displayed evidence that their immune system was producing antibodies attacking their own tissue.”

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The team highlights that the findings don’t tell us to what extent autoantibodies contribute to the most severe symptoms of Covid-19.

Mr Woodruff added: “It could be that severe viral illness routinely results in the production of autoantibodies with little consequence; this could just be the first time we’re seeing it. We also don’t know how long the autoantibodies last.

“Our data suggest that they are relatively stable over a few weeks. But, we need follow-up studies to understand if they are persisting routinely beyond infection recovery.”


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