It took me absolutely ages to get my poorly working brain around this latest research - it's an utter mind melt but hopefully I have got the essential points from it to share with you.
First a little recap from my blog "Autoantibodies in Covid-19":
What are antibodies?
Antibodies are proteins that are released by the cells of the immune system. They disable viruses by latching on to their surface proteins and preventing them gaining access to the body’s cells.
Above: our immune system made up of innate and adaptive immunity pathways.
What are autoantibodies?
Autoantibodies are antibodies that attack the body itself by mistake and disrupt the normal function as a result.
This is often referred to as “friendly fire” as you are being attacked my something that should be protecting you. Autoantibodies can be made and triggered by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The autoantibodies attack and this results in:
The blocking of our antiviral defences
The destroying of helpful immune cells,
The body's organs being attacked- from the brain, blood vessels, lung, heart, to the gastrointestinal tract - AUTOIMMUNITY
Susceptibility to the infection
Many of us post acute Covid-19 have developed Positional Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. Here are its common symptoms below:
It is thought by many experts around the world that POTS is driven by autoimmunity and so should be classified as an autoimmune disease. However there are less than 100 research papers looking into this. Compare this to hypertension (which is not thought to be autoimmune driven) but there are over 1000 papers looking into links between autoimmunity and high blood pressure!! There are plenty of probable reasons - POTS is relatively rare, tends to affect younger people and the majority are women.
Research shows that 16 % of POTS patients do have autoimmune disease, though I think it is probably more. The organs mostly affected are the thyroid, salivary glands, the gut, the nervous system the cardiac system and the skin. Below is the research to date showing all the autoantibodies found in POTS:
In the recent paper "Functional autoantibodies against G-protein coupled receptors in patients with persistent post-COVID-19 symptoms" the researchers studied blood from Long Covid patients. They found it contained functionally active autoantibodies which target G-protein coupled receptors.
G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) are integral membrane proteins that are used by cells to convert extracellular signals into intracellular responses, including responses to hormones, neurotransmitters, as well as responses to vision, smell and taste signals. In the diagram below it shows a GPCR being stimulated by adrenaline (epinephrine) to produce molecules that increase the heart rate. Imagine if an autoantibody messed up this system and continuously caused the heart rate to be increased/ or increased when it didn't need to be? Sound familiar?!
So in Long Covid they found pathogenic (disease-causing) autoantibodies targeting lots of these G-protein coupled receptors.
These antibodies have the ability to disturb the balance of nerve, vascular and cardiac processes.
They may explain the symptoms felt by so many with Long Covid:
Cardiac : palpitations, lightheadedness, chest pain, shortness of breath, exercise intolerance
Neuromuscular: brain fog, migraine, sleep disturbance, tremors and twitches.
The researchers concluded: "The observed specific GPCR-autoantibody pattern has been observed before in several neurological and cardiac disorders and might also support the development of neurological and/or cardiovascular symptoms after COVID-19 recovery. These results provide valuable clues that are worth pursuing and investigating further".
This just emphasises more that Long Covid patients with an increase of their heart rate from lying to standing (of over 30 beats per minute) or any of the above symptoms MUST BE screened for Positional Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.
I cannot imagine any of us will have access to autoantibody screening anytime soon. Please do let me know if you have had and what type of autoantibodies you tested positive for. I hope this paper will lead to more studies looking at the autoimmune nature of Long Covid so that we all can start to get the proper treatment we deserve.
A small study with only 31 patients studied but ALL had autoantibodies.