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The Covid-19 pandemic causes by infection with SARS-CoV-2 has led to millions of deaths around the world. Several investigations have demonstrated that the SARS-CoV-2-induced hyperinflammatory response is a key driver of disease severity and mortality in infected individuals. Apart from breathing complications associated with Covid-19, doctors have discovered that life-threatening blood clots and inflammation are common in patients infected with the coronavirus. Scientists are trying to figure out what is triggers inflammation and blood clots in Covid-19.
According to a study published in JCI Insight, a functional autoantibody adds to the disease's progression and causes a firestorm of blood clots and inflammation in Covid-19 patients. Autoantibodies are antibodies (immune proteins) that erroneously target and react with a person's own tissues or organs. When the immune system fails to differentiate between "self" and "non-self," one or more autoantibodies may be generated.
As per a growing body of research, Covid-19 mimics several characteristics of systemic autoimmune diseases, including the release of a flurry of hyperactive immune cells that create deadly webs of proteins and DNA known as neutrophil extracellular traps, or NETs. For the study, researchers examined blood from over 300 hospitalised Covid patients in search of a new autoantibody that protects toxic NETs from destruction while also producing a long-lasting unpleasant impact on the patient's body. Many of the individuals had significantly increased levels of anti-NET antibodies. Those with greater levels of autoantibodies were more likely to experience severe Covid-19 symptoms.
Lead author Yu (Ray) Zuo, a rheumatologist at Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan said, "We see a slew of different antibodies produced in Covid-19 patients, and now we discovered another clinically significant one that is likely contributing to severe Covid. They feed into the inflammatory storm that we're seeing in the most serious cases of viral infection."
The NETs were created in the lab and cultured with Covid patient serum. They discovered that serum from patients with greater levels of anti-NET antibodies had difficulty degrading the hazardous traps. The researchers also supplemented healthy serum with anti-NETs isolated from infected individuals. While the extracellular traps should be totally disintegrated by a healthy person's blood, the purified anti-NET antibodies greatly slowed the process.
Jason Knight, Associate Professor of rheumatology at Michigan Medicine, "We knew that people with severe forms of Covid have higher amounts of these neutrophil extracellular traps, which amplify inflammation and promote blood clot formation. We've now found that this process is exacerbated by the anti-NET antibodies, which disrupt our body's immune homeostasis during Covid-19 infection."
However, it is unclear how Covid-19 induces the development of a wide range of autoantibodies, including anti-NETs. Zuo believes that more research into the virus's autoimmune features would not only lead to a better knowledge of the condition but will also provide insight into the origins of autoimmune disorders.
(with inputs from IANS)