COVID-19 causes a big variety of different symptoms and some of them are quite difficult to explain. Now a new University of Birmingham-led study discovered that at least some of those symptoms are due to the body’s immune response against its own tissues and organs. This is some important knowledge going deeper into the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scientists analysed antibodies produced by 84 individuals who either had severe COVID-19 at the time or just recovered from this disease. They compared this data with a control group of 32 patients who were in intensive care for another reason not related to COVID-19. Researchers were looking into autoantibodies, which are a type of antibodies that become directed against one or more of the individual’s own proteins. In other words, scientists are looking into cases where COVID-19 causes something similar to an autoimmune disease. In fact, researchers say that SARS-CoV-2, a virus which causes COVID-19, can trigger long-term autoimmune disorders such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
Scientists found that while people from the control group displayed a diverse pattern of autoantibodies, COVID-19 patients had a more restricted panel of autoantibodies including skin, skeletal muscle and cardiac antibodies. Furthermore, those with more severe cases of the infection much more frequently had autoantibodies in their blood. Scientists cannot say if this is a common phenomenon – the next stage of this study will include a bigger variety of people in attempts to answer those questions. They also don’t know whether these autoantibodies can explain some of the unexpected COVID-19 symptoms.
Scientists are still trying to figure out some of the lingering symptoms of COVID-19. It is possible that they are caused by a strong autoimmune response. In other words, antibodies could be damaging the body’s own tissues. Understanding these issues could help solve them in the later parts of the pandemic. Professor David Wraith, senior author of the study, said: “In this detailed study of a range of different tissues, we showed for the first time that COVID-19 infection is linked to production of selective autoantibodies. More work is needed to define whether these antibodies contribute to the long-term consequences of SARS-CoV-2 infection and hence could be targeted for treatment”.
And scientists will continue working in this direction. Hopefully at the end of this study they will be able to explain the symptoms of long COVID-19. Vaccines and new social norms will help us deal with this pandemic, but even after it there will be thousands of people suffering from lingering symptoms.
Source: University of Birmingham