Health

Is this why some people get sicker than others with Covid-19?


Why are some people more severely affected by infections, including Covid? It’s a question that has puzzled scientists, but now they think they know at least part of the answer: autoantibodies.

They could not only help explain our susceptibility to infections, but also conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes, aging and even prolonged Covid.

‘Protein attacks us from within’ sounds more like a description for a new sci-fi movie than a real threat to humanity. But autoantibodies – also known as ‘spoof’ antibodies – are just that.

They are immune cells that fight us, instead of defending our body against infection, they attack our healthy tissues and vital organs.

This process is the cause of a long list of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

In each case, the immune system misfires, mistakes a part of the body for a foreign object and releases autoantibodies to ‘attack’ – in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, it leads to arthritis.

Why are some people more severely affected by infections, including Covid?  It's a question that has puzzled scientists, but now they think they know at least part of the answer: autoantibodies.  A stock image used above [File photo]

Why are some people more severely affected by infections, including Covid?  It's a question that has puzzled scientists, but now they think they know at least part of the answer: autoantibodies.  A stock image used above [File photo]

Why are some people more severely affected by infections, including Covid? It’s a question that has puzzled scientists, but now they think they know at least part of the answer: autoantibodies. A stock image used above [File photo]

People with healthy immune systems also produce autoantibodies. Until about 20 years ago, it was thought they were simply getting rid of them, but since then scientists have discovered that autoantibodies exist in low amounts in some people.

But as we age, their numbers increase (it is thought that they play some role in the aging process).

Today, immunologists are particularly interested in the role that autoantibodies may play in Covid-19 and long Covid.

As part of an international project, Dr. Jean-Laurent Casanova, an expert in human genetics and infectious diseases, and his team at Rockefeller University, USA investigated the factors that increased risk of severe Covid-19 illness.

They found that patients hospitalized with it had much higher levels of autoantibodies than unaffected patients, and estimated that autoantibodies could account for about a fifth of all deaths. caused by Covid-19.

They found that autoantibodies exacerbate infection by blocking the action of molecules that help fight viral infections.

They also believe that low levels of autoantibodies may help explain why some people don’t have – or mild – symptoms of Covid.

Other studies have recently identified a range of autoantibodies in the blood of patients with severe Covid-19 that cause harm in different ways, for example by attacking proteins that help control blood clotting.

This process is the cause of a long list of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.  In each case, the immune system misfires, mistakes a part of the body for a foreign object and releases autoantibodies to 'attack' - in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, it leads to arthritis.

This process is the cause of a long list of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.  In each case, the immune system misfires, mistakes a part of the body for a foreign object and releases autoantibodies to 'attack' - in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, it leads to arthritis.

This process is the cause of a long list of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. In each case, the immune system misfires, mistakes a part of the body for a foreign object and releases autoantibodies to ‘attack’ – in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, it leads to arthritis.

And because autoantibodies can be detected in blood tests, screening can help identify people with high levels, therefore, who may need preventive treatment – or detect infected need early aggressive treatment.

Professor Adrian Liston, senior team leader at the Babraham Institute in the UK, is leading a work program to understand the changes that occur in the immune systems of patients with Covid-19.

He said it was too early to say whether autoantibodies played a role in acute illness or persistent Covid disease, but their presence needed attention.

“It’s certainly a very logical path because we have evidence that autoantibodies can persist for years or decades, unlike viruses,” he said. Good explanation for why Covid symptoms persist long after the virus disappears.

But another possible explanation is that the virus ‘could start an inflammatory circuit, where inflammation breeds inflammation, causing more inflammation, even after the virus is gone – and we don’t have enough. study to say for sure’.

But it is hoped that such research will pave the way for innovations in diagnosis and treatment. Professor Liston predicts there will be a diagnostic tool for long Covid based on autoantibodies within the next six months and possibly an autoantibody-based treatment for Covid long after that.

While Covid has undoubtedly stimulated more interest in autoantibodies, they have been the subject of intense research prior to the pandemic, in part because of concerns about a disturbing increase in autoimmune disease.

There are four million people in the UK known to be living with at least one autoimmune condition, but according to Dr Louisa James, a senior lecturer in immunology at London’s Queen Mary College, the prevalence will increased, in part due to ‘perhaps more syndromes and conditions where our immune system is playing a role that was not recognized before’.

For example, a recent study found that fibromyalgia, which causes widespread pain, may be an autoimmune condition caused by antibodies that affect pain sensitivity, she says.

Paul Morgan, professor of immunology at Cardiff University, is excited about what the future of autoantibody research can bring and says applying knowledge from autoimmune disease research can help bring new treatments for Covid-19 and Covid long.

If autoantibodies are indeed the cause of many lingering Covid symptoms, then you can use the kinds of approaches developed for autoimmune diseases – drugs that lower levels of harmful antibodies – for prolonged Covid treatment.

‘That’s why it’s important, it could provide us with a real way to treat disease – by targeting autoantibodies.’

Source: | This article originally belonged to Dailymail.co.uk



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