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Long-term COVID-19 symptoms could be caused by antibodies malfunctioning

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Posted at 12:26 PM, Dec 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-14 14:26:20-05

A new study suggests misguided antibodies created as a response when someone is infected with the coronavirus could be the cause behind both more severe COVID-19 symptoms and those who report having symptoms for months after initially recovering.

Researchers at Yale University found that COVID-19 patients they studied had high levels of antibodies that had turned on them; these wayward antibodies blocked antiviral defenses, wiped out helpful immune cells and attacked the body in several areas including the brain, blood vessels, liver and gastrointestinal tract.

“Covid-19 patients make autoantibodies that actually interfere with immune responses against the virus,” Aaron Ring, an immunobiologist at Yale and senior author on the study, told The Guardian.

Autoantibodies are antibodies that attack the body’s own proteins by mistake and disrupt their normal functions.

“We certainly believe that these autoantibodies are harmful to patients with Covid-19,” said Ring. He added that the harmful effects of these autoantibodies could continue well after the initial infection has been overcome. He said antibodies can last for a long time, and if they are misguided in their attacks, the effects of their attacks on the body could also last a while.

The study, which has yet to be peer reviewed and formally published, looked at antibodies from 194 COVID-19 patients and hospital workers with a range of symptoms and severity of symptoms.

Other conditions, like lupus, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, are also made worse by the immune system malfunctioning and attacking the body.