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Microbiol Spectr ; 10(4): e0128022, 2022 08 31.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1950019


In this work, we observed an increased presence of antibodies (Abs) against type I interferon (IFN-I) in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) compared to non-ICU COVID-19 patients and healthy control (HC) subjects. Human endogenous retrovirus W (HERV-W) can reactivate after viral infection; therefore, we also investigated the presence of antibodies against HERV-W envelope (HERV-W-env)-derived epitopes. A total of 113 subjects (41 female and 72 male subjects) were analyzed. A significant difference in autoantibodies against IFN-α, IFN-ω, and HERV-W was observed between HCs and ICU patients; indeed, the latter have higher levels of autoantibodies against IFN-α, IFN-ω, and HERV-W than subjects with mild COVID-19 and HCs. Neutralizing anti-IFN-I autoantibodies may affect the ability of IFN-I to bind to the type I interferon receptor (IFNAR), blocking the activation of the antiviral response. IMPORTANCE In this work, we report the increased presence of IFN autoantibodies in correlation with HERV-W-env autoantibodies in ICU COVID-19 patients. The novelty of the results is in the association of these IFN autoantibodies with autoantibodies against HERV-W-env, a protein recently discovered to be overexpressed in lymphocytes of COVID-19 patients and correlated with severe disease and pneumonia. Type I IFNs are part of a complex cross-regulatory network; however, in a small percentage of cases, the increase in autoantibodies against these proteins may lead to damage to the host instead of protection against infectious diseases.

COVID-19 , Endogenous Retroviruses , Interferon Type I , Autoantibodies , Female , Humans , Intensive Care Units , Male