A new study, published in the Journal of Translational Medicine, has found that COVID-19 infection can trigger an immune response that lasts well beyond the initial infection and recovery, according to Medical Xpress.

Researchers at Cedars-Sinai suggest that COVID-19 infection could trigger self-attacking antibodies even in mild or asymptomatic cases.

When a virus or any other pathogen invades the body, it unleashed proteins called antibodies, which detect foreign substances and keep them from entering cells. However, in some cases, people produce autoantibodies that can attack the body’s own cells. organs and tissues.

The investigators found that people with previous COVID-19 infection have a wide variety of autoantibodies for up to six months after getting fully recovered.

Before this study, scientists knew that severe COVID-19 cases could stress the immune system to an extent where autoantibodies are produced.

Dr. Justyna Fert-Bober, the study’s co-senior author, said, “These findings help to explain what makes COVID-19 an especially unique disease. These patterns of immune dysregulation could be underlying the different types of persistent symptoms we see in people who go on to develop the condition now referred to as long COVID-19.”

The researchers recruited 177 people with confirmed evidence of a previous infection with COVID-19. They compared blood samples from these people with samples taken from healthy people before the pandemic. All individuals who were previously infected by COVID-19 had elevated levels of autoantibodies.

The team also found some of the autoantibodies in people with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Dr. Susan Cheng, another co-senior author, said, “We found signals of autoantibody activity that are usually linked to chronic inflammation and injury involving specific organ systems and tissues such as the joints, skin and nervous system.”

The investigators explained that some of the autoantibodies were associated with autoimmune diseases that typically affect women more often than men. However, this study found that men had elevated autoantibodies than women.

Dr. Fert-Bober said, “On the one hand, this finding is paradoxical given that autoimmune conditions are usually more common in females. On the other hand, it is also somewhat expected given all that we know about males being more vulnerable to the most severe forms of COVID-19.”

The team is now interested in expanding the study to understand the types of autoantibodies that may be present or persist in people with long-haul COVID symptoms.

The study was conducted on people who were infected before the vaccines were available so the researchers will examine whether these autoantibodies are also generated in breakthrough infections.

Dr. Cheng said, “If we can better understand these autoantibody responses, and how it is that SARS-CoV-2 infection triggers and drives these variable responses, then we can get one step closer to identifying ways to treat and even prevent these effects from developing in people at risk. The story was published in Medical Xpress.