There is mounting evidence that people who contracted COVID-19 and recovered developed antibodies that could attack their organs and tissues in the long run.
Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center recently reported that a SARS-CoV-2 infection could trigger an immune response involving self-attacking antibodies that could last months after the initial infection and recovery.
For the study, the team of scientists examined the autoantibody reactivity of 117 participants (65% women, 35% men, the mean age of 35). All of them had a previous SARS-CoV-2 infection. Data collected from the participants were compared to 53 pre-pandemic healthy controls.
After analyzing all of the data, the researchers found that the autoantibody reactivity was more pronounced in women who had an asymptomatic infection and in men who had a mild symptomatic infection. They concluded that even in the absence of severe infection, patients still developed a broad autoantibody response.
“We would not normally expect to see such a diverse array of autoantibodies elevated in these individuals or stay elevated for as long six months after full clinical recovery,” Susan Cheng of the Cedars-Sinai Smidt Heart Institute in Los Angeles, who was part of the study, told Reuters.
Persistence Of Autoantibodies
The researchers already knew before conducting the study that severe infection could cause the immune system to mass-produce autoantibodies. In the course of the study, they were surprised to know that the virus was capable of triggering a wide variety of autoantibodies regardless of whether the infection was mild or asymptomatic. They were also the first to report the persistence of the autoantibodies over time.
“We don’t yet know how much longer, beyond six months, the antibodies will stay elevated and/or lead to any important clinical symptoms. It will be essential to monitor individuals moving forward,” Cheng added.
Co-senior author Justyna Fert Bober, PhD, a research scientist in the Department of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute, said their findings could help explain the condition known as “long COVID.”
“These findings help to explain what makes COVID-19 an especially unique disease. These patterns of immune dysregulation could be underlying the different types of persistent symptoms we see in people who go on to develop the condition now referred to as long COVID-19,” Fert-Bober was quoted as saying by Science Daily.
The findings of the Cedars-Sinai researchers were published in the Journal of Translational Medicine.