Novel Autoantibody Adds Fuel To COVID-19 'Firestorm' Of Infl
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Researchers have discovered yet another functional autoantibody in COVID-19 patients that contributes to the disease's development and the "firestorm" of blood clots and inflammation it induces. A growing body of studies suggests COVID-19 emulates many aspects of systemic autoimmune disorders, including the release of a flurry of overactive immune cells that produce toxic webs of proteins and DNA called neutrophil extracellular traps, or NETs.

For this study, the team analyzed serum from over 300 hospitalized COVID patients, searching for a novel autoantibody that shields the toxic NETs from being destroyed and produces a lasting noxious effect in a patient's body. The results, reveal markedly elevated levels of the anti-NET antibodies in many of the participants. Those with higher levels of the autoantibodies were more likely to develop severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Researchers generated NETs in the lab and incubated them with COVID patient serum. They found the serum from patients with higher levels of anti-NET antibodies struggled to degrade the toxic traps. The team also spiked healthy serum with anti-NETs purified from the infected patients. While a healthy person's serum should completely disintegrate the extracellular traps, the purified anti-NET antibodies significantly hindered the process.

The team previously reported the presence of anti-NETs in patients with antiphospholipid syndrome, a systemic autoimmune condition characterized by severe blood clots and recurring pregnancy loss. The anti-NET antibodies, which are likely associated with the development of recurrent blood clots and more severe disease in antiphospholipid syndrome, showed remarkably similar function in this study of COVID-19 patients, said a corresponding author.