Some COVID-19 survivors may have antibodies that attack body instead of virus

Some COVID-19 survivors may carry antibodies that attack the body instead of the virus, similar to antibodies seen in lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients, according to a study cited by The New York Times

The antibodies are called "autoantibodies," and they target genetic material from human cells instead of from a virus. Other viral illnesses also trigger autoantibodies, experts told the Times

Autoantibodies were found in almost half of 52 patients from Emory HealthCare in Atlanta in a study published Oct. 23 in the preprint server MedRxiv. The study has yet to be published in a scientific journal, the Times reported. 

All of the study's patients had severe or critical COVID-19 and no history of autoimmune disorders. But Akiko Iwasaki, PhD, an immunologist at Yale University, told the Times it's possible that people with moderate or mild COVID-19 could see the same kind of autoantibody response. 

The findings may explain why COVID-19 "long haulers" have lasting problems months after the virus leaves their bodies, experts told the Times. By using tests that detect autoantibodies, physicians may be able to identify COVID-19 patients who could benefit from treatments for autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Ann Marshak-Rothstein, PhD, an immunologist and lupus expert at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester told the Times that if COVID-19 autoantibodies turn out to be long-lasting, they may result in lifelong problems for some COVID-19 survivors. 

Read the full article here

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