New research found ‘autoantibodies’ similar to those in lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients. But patients may also benefit from treatments for those autoimmune diseases.
Some survivors of Covid-19 carry worrying signs that their immune system has turned on the body, reminiscent of potentially debilitating diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, a new study has found.
At some point, the body’s defense system in these patients shifted into attacking itself, rather than the virus, the study suggests. The patients are producing molecules called “autoantibodies” that target genetic material from human cells, instead of from the virus.
This misguided immune response may exacerbate severe Covid-19. It may also explain why so-called “long haulers” have lingering problems months after their initial illness has resolved and the virus is gone from their bodies.
The findings carry important implications for treatment: Using existing tests that can detect autoantibodies, doctors could identify patients who might benefit from treatments used for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. There is no cure for these diseases, but some treatments decrease the frequency and severity of flare-ups.
Apoorva Mandavilli – New York Times – October 27, 2020.