Establishing the prevalence of common tissue-specific autoantibodies following severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection

Alex G Richter, Adrian M Shields, Abid Karim, David Birch, Sian E Faustini, Lora Steadman, Kerensa Ward, Timothy Plant, Gary Reynolds, Tonny Veenith, Adam F Cunningham, Mark T Drayson, David C Wraith

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Coronavirus 19 (COVID-19) has been associated with both transient and persistent systemic symptoms that do not appear to be a direct consequence of viral infection. The generation of autoantibodies has been proposed as a mechanism to explain these symptoms. To understand the prevalence of autoantibodies associated with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection, we investigated the frequency and specificity of clinically relevant autoantibodies in 84 individuals previously infected with SARS-CoV-2, suffering from COVID-19 of varying severity in both the acute and convalescent setting. These were compared with results from 32 individuals who were on the intensive therapy unit (ITU) for non-COVID reasons. We demonstrate a higher frequency of autoantibodies in the COVID-19 ITU group compared with non-COVID-19 ITU disease control patients and that autoantibodies were also found in the serum 3-5 months post-COVID-19 infection. Non-COVID patients displayed a diverse pattern of autoantibodies; in contrast, the COVID-19 groups had a more restricted panel of autoantibodies including skin, skeletal muscle and cardiac antibodies. Our results demonstrate that respiratory viral infection with SARS-CoV-2 is associated with the detection of a limited profile of tissue-specific autoantibodies, detectable using routine clinical immunology assays. Further studies are required to determine whether these autoantibodies are specific to SARS-CoV-2 or a phenomenon arising from severe viral infections and to determine the clinical significance of these autoantibodies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-105
Number of pages7
JournalClinical and Experimental Immunology
Issue number2
Early online date3 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021 The Authors. Clinical & Experimental Immunology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Society for Immunology.


  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • autoantibodies
  • autoimmunity
  • long COVID


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