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.”
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.”
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.”