Oct 28, 2020 - Health

Some coronavirus survivors have "autoantibodies"

Illustration of a purple coronavirus under a spotlight in the dark
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Some coronavirus survivors' immune systems may be producing antibodies that are attacking their bodies, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: This may make severe coronavirus cases worse, and also may help explain why some patients suffer symptoms for months after being infected.

Details: These patients' immune systems have shifted from attacking the virus to attacking themselves — which is similar to what happens with diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

  • The patients are producing "autoantibodies," which target genetic material from human cells rather than the virus.
  • The study has not been published in a scientific journal.
  • "Anytime you have that combination of inflammation and cell death, there is the potential for autoimmune disease and autoantibodies, more importantly, to emerge," Marion Pepper, an immunologist at the University of Washington, told NYT.

What's next: Doctors could use existing tests to find patients with autoantibodies, who may benefit from treatments used by lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients.

Go deeper