Autoimmune Antibodies May Predict COVID-19 Severity

These special immune system defense molecules help show which individuals are most at risk of needing intensive care and need to be monitored more closely, new study results show.

The presence of special immune system defense molecules, called autoimmune antibodies, has been strongly tied to how poorly individuals fare when hospitalized with COVID-19, new study results show.

“While further testing is needed, our findings suggest that a test for the presence of anti-DNA and anti-phosphatidylserine antibodies could help identify those COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital who are most at risk of needing intensive care and who need to be monitored more closely,” Marisol Zuniga, MS, a study co-lead investigator at NYU Langone, said in a statement.

Of all the individuals admitted to the hospital, 36% had autoimmune antibodies, and 86% with high levels of anti-DNA antibodies and 93% with high levels of anti-phosphatidylserine antibodies experienced severe COVID-19 symptoms.

In addition to high levels of anti-DNA and anti-phosphatidylserine antibodies being linked to the severity of COVID-19, they are also linked to an increase in blood coagulation and cell death, especially in muscular tissue, the study results showed.

These autoimmune antibodies bind to DNA or phosphatidylserine lipids and attacked an infected individual’s cells instead of the bacteria and viruses, the study results showed.

Investigators found that individuals with elevated autoimmune antibody levels were 5 to 7 times more likely to experience severe disease, and those who had lower levels could usually breathe without the use of a ventilator and most likely recovered.

Investigators examined blood tests and medical records from 115 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 between April and June 2020 at NYU Langone.

The test results included more than 100 measurements, including blood oxygen levels, kidney functions, and liver enzymes that were compared with the levels of these autoimmune antibodies.

A roughly equal number of individuals either survived or died with severe COVID-19 or did not require intensive care and recovered quickly.

Reference

Off-target immune response could predict COVID-19 severity. EurekAlert. News release. September 9, 2021. Accessed September 9, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/927271