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EuropePMC; 2021.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-292822

ABSTRACT

Purpose: Six-19% of critically ill COVID-19 patients display circulating auto-antibodies against type I interferons (IFN-AABs). Here, we establish a clinically applicable strategy for early identification of IFN-AAB-positive patients for potential subsequent clinical interventions. Methods We analysed sera of 430 COVID-19 patients with severe and critical disease from four hospitals for presence of IFN-AABs by ELISA. Binding specificity and neutralizing activity were evaluated via competition assay and virus-infection-based neutralization assay. We defined clinical parameters associated with IFN-AAB positivity. In a subgroup of critically ill patients, we analyzed effects of therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) on the levels of IFN-AABs, SARS-CoV-2 antibodies and clinical outcome. Results The prevalence of neutralizing AABs to IFN-α and IFN-ω in COVID-19 patients was 4.2% (18/430), while being undetectable in an uninfected control cohort. Neutralizing IFN-AABs were detectable exclusively in critically affected, predominantly male (83%) patients (7.6% IFN-α and 4.6% IFN-ω in 207 patients with critical COVID-19). IFN-AABs were present early post-symptom onset and at the peak of disease. Fever and oxygen requirement at hospital admission co-presented with neutralizing IFN-AAB positivity. IFN-AABs were associated with higher mortality (92.3% versus 19.1 % in patients without IFN-AABs). TPE reduced levels of IFN-AABs in three of five patients and may increase survival of IFN-AAB-positive patients compared to those not undergoing TPE. Conclusion IFN-AABs may serve as early biomarker for development of severe COVID-19. We propose to implement routine screening of hospitalized COVID-19 patients according to our algorithm for rapid identification of patients with IFN-AABs who most likely benefit from specific therapies.

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