Recent studies reported the presence of pre-existing autoantibodies (auto-Abs) neutralizing type I interferons (IFNs) in at least 15% of patients with critical COVID-19 pneumonia. In one study, these auto-Abs were found in almost 20% of deceased patients across all ages. We aimed to assess the prevalence and clinical impact of the auto-Abs to type I IFNs in the Seine-Saint-Denis district, which was one of the most affected areas by COVID-19 in France during the first wave. We tested for the presence of auto-Abs neutralizing type I IFNs in a cohort of patients admitted for critical COVID-19 pneumonia during the first wave in the spring of 2020 in the medicine departments at Robert Ballanger Hospital, Aulnay sous Bois. We found circulating auto-Abs that neutralized 100 pg/mL IFN-α2 and/or IFN-ω in the plasma (diluted 1/10) of 7.9% (11 of 139) of the patients hospitalized for critical COVID-19. The presence of neutralizing auto-Abs was associated with an increased risk of mortality, as these auto-Abs were detected in 21% of patients who died from COVID-19 pneumonia. Deceased patients with and without auto-Abs did not present overt clinical differences. These results confirm both the importance of type I IFN immunity in host defense against SARS-CoV-2 infection and the usefulness of detection of auto-Abs neutralizing type I IFNs in the management of patients.
Keywords: Autoantibodies; COVID-19; mortality; type I interferons.
© 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.