The Development of Autoantibodies after Contracting COVID-19

February 3, 2021

While COVID-19 short-term impacts have been identified, the long-term effects of the disease are still widely unknown. Many new studies have shed some light on the potential long-term consequences of COVID-19, focusing on autoimmunity. A recent study from The University of Stanford School of Medicine directly links COVID-19 to autoimmunity and autoantibody development. This suggests that severe cases of COVID-19 can lead to a progression of “symptomatic classifiable autoimmunity in the future” (1). The linking of coronavirus to an increase in autoimmunity indicates significant concerns, especially for those with autoimmune diseases, whose immune systems are already impacted.

Many autoantibodies were found in this study’s COVID-19 patients, but the most common was Immunoglobin G (IgG) autoantibodies. IgG antibodies make up most of our blood’s antibodies, protecting us from infection, meaning that IgG autoantibodies pose potential threats as they could be pathogenic. The study used protein chips to track protein interactions that measure distinct IgG autoantibodies associated with connective tissue disease (CTD), anti-cytokine antibodies (ACA), and anti-viral antibody response.

This study’s findings signify that over 58% of the COVID-19 patients had at least one ACA that targeted interferons (IFN), which are proteins that inhibit virus replication. This emphasizes that the autoantibodies produced by infection from COVID-19 attack the vital proteins needed to protect the immune system. This study also measured autoantibodies levels throughout the patient’s sickness period, distinctly showing that the levels of autoantibodies increased in many patients over time.