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Current Affairs

Autoimmune anti-body response linked to severe Covid-19

Date: 13 October 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

In the earliest days of the pandemic, many immunologists, assumed that patients who produced high quantities of antibodies early in infection would be free from disease.

 

Background

A recent research study adds more evidence to the idea that in some patients, preventing dysregulated immune system responses may be as important as treating the virus itself.

 

Details

  • In patients with severe COVID-19 infections, evidence has emerged that the inflammatory process used to fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus were, in addition to fighting the virus, potentially responsible for harming the patient.

  • Clinical studies described so-called cytokine storms in which the immune system produced an overwhelming quantity of inflammatory molecules, antibodies triggering dangerous blood clots and inflammation of multiple organ systems, including blood vessels.

  • All these were warning signs that in some patients, immune responses to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, may have tipped from healing to destructive.

  • Quick thinking and courageous decisions made by physicians on the front lines led to the use of steroids, medicines that dampen the immune response, early on in the course of infection of hospitalized patients. This approach has saved lives.

  • It is not yet clear what parts of the immune system physicians are dampening that is having the effect. Understanding the nature of immune dysregulation in COVID-19 could help identify patients in whom these treatments are most effective. 

  • When a B cell produces antibodies that attack a person's own cells, it can lead to widespread organ damage and establish a perpetual cycle of immune self-targeting.

  • To avoid autoimmune disaster, and to ensure effective response against the invading pathogen, B cells undergo a training process.

  • Patients with these autoimmune-like B cell responses fare poorly, with high incidences of systemic organ failure and death.