DETECTION OF ANTINUCLEAR ANTIBODIES TARGETING INTRACELLULAR SIGNAL TRANSDUCTION, METABOLISM, APOPTOTIC PROCESSES AND CELL DEATH IN CRITICAL COVID-19 PATIENTS

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HADI YASSINE

Keywords

Autoimmune, COVID-19, ANA, ICU

Abstract

Background: The heterogeneity of coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) lies within its diverse symptoms and severity, ranging from mild to lethal. Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) has been shown to be a leading cause of mortality in COVID-19 patients, characterized by a hyper cytokine storm. Autoimmunity is proposed to occur as a result of COVID-19, given the high similarity of the immune responses observed in COVID-19 and autoimmune diseases. Here, we investigate the level of autoimmune antibodies in COVID-19 patients with different severities. Results: Initial screening for antinuclear antibodies (ANA) IgG using ELISA revealed that 1.58% (2/126) and 4% (5/126) of intensive care unit (ICU) COVID-19 cases expressed strong and moderate ANA levels, respectively. An additional sample was positive with immunofluorescence assays (IFA) screening. However, all the non-ICU cases (n=273) were ANA negative using both assays. Samples positive for ANA were further confirmed with large-scale autoantibody screening by phage immunoprecipitation-sequencing (PhIP-Seq). The majority of the ANA-positive samples showed "speckled" ANA pattern by microscopy, and revealed autoantibody specificities that predominantly targeted proteins involved in intracellular signal transduction, metabolism, apoptotic processes, and cell death by PhIP-Seq; further denoting reactivity to nuclear and cytoplasmic antigens. Conclusion: Our results further support the notion of routine screening for autoimmune responses in COVID-19 patients, which might help improve disease prognosis and patient management. Further, results provide compelling evidence that ANA-positive individuals should be excluded from being donors for convalescent plasma therapy in the context of COVID-19.

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