One of the many dangers of COVID-19 is the disease’s mysterious ability to spur blood clots throughout the body. Now, a new study can explain why – the disease appears to promote the production of special antibodies known to activate blood clots.
So-called “autoimmune antibodies” or “autoantibodies” attack a person’s own tissues. Specific types of autoantibodies called “antiphospholipid autoantibodies” attack cells in a way that promotes blood clots.
In research published November 2 in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers discovered these autoantibodies in about half of patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
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Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, these autoantibodies were commonly seen in people with an autoimmune disorder called antiphospholipid syndrome, or APS. This syndrome affects about 1 in every 2,000 people, and it causes dangerous blood clots to the arteries and veins of inpatients.
Study co-author Dr Yogen Kanthi, a professor at the Frankel Yogen Heart Center, said: “Now, we are aware that autoantibodies may be the culprit of COVID- 19. They can play a role in a vicious cycle of blood clotting and inflammation in people [with COVID-19] Kanthi said.
Antibodies cause blood clotting
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In the new study, researchers analyzed blood samples from 172 hospitalized patients with COVID-19. Overall, 52% of these patients had antiphospholipid antibodies in the blood.
What’s more, when researchers injected these autoantibodies into mice used to study blood clots in the lab, they observed “significant blood clotting in animals – one of the most worst blood clotting phenomenon we’ve ever seen, “Kanthi said.
In both COVID-19 and APS, it is still unclear why the body produces antibodies that cause these clotting. With APS, scientists think the disease is caused by a combination of a person’s genetics and exposure to the environment – including exposure to certain viruses, according to the International Institutes of Health. family.
Researchers also found a link between levels of autoantibodies and levels of another substance in the blood called neutrophil cytoplasmic trapping (NETS). These are web-like structures secreted by white blood cells (called neutrophils) that can trap viruses and other pathogens. The authors hypothesize that autoantibodies and NETS may work together to promote blood clots.
However, more research is needed to better understand the role these autoantibodies play in COVID-19, and what triggers their production.
Severe cases of COVID-19 are now often treated with anticoagulants to reduce the risk of life-threatening blood clots. But it’s possible that inhibition or elimination of autoantibodies may also improve patient outcomes, the authors say.
If this is the case, the patient may benefit from a treatment called electrophoresis, which is sometimes used in cases of severe autoimmune disease and includes removal, filtration, and return. plasma, the liquid part of blood that contains harmful antibodies.
The study also questioned the use of therapeutic plasma, or plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients, to treat the disease, since such plasma may contain these harmful autoantibodies in addition to useful antibodies against COVID-19. Future studies are needed to investigate this concern, and the authors are currently conducting research to see how long autoantibodies persist after people recover from COVID-19.
Originally published on Live Science.