Critically ill Covid-19 patients have normal antibody production

Researchers at Lawson Health Research Institute (Lawson) and Western University have teamed up with local biotech company, Diagnostics Biochem Canada, to better understand Covid-19 and the body’s immune response to the infection.

A recently published study followed 28 critically ill patients at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC); 14 who tested positive for Covid-19 and 14 who tested negative. They also followed 14 mildly ill non-hospitalised patients with Covid-19 and 14 healthy controls. The researchers tracked the body’s immune responses and found that all Covid-19 positive patients had a normal antibody response to the infection, even those with poorer outcomes.

“Our previous research showed that in severe cases of Covid-19, the body produces what’s called a cytokine storm, or an intense, initial immune response. However, in this new study, we observed that after a few days and weeks in critical care, the body produced a later, humoral antibody response that is equivalent to what we would expect with any similar infection,” explained Dr. Douglas Fraser, lead researcher and Critical Care Physician at LHSC.

Patients with Covid-19 reacted to the infection and produced ample anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, including those who passed away. This finding suggests that blunted immune responses – when there is a lack of antibody production – did not contribute to mortality. Fraser concludes that based on their data, the focus of treatment should shift to combatting the viral load a person receives, and the body’s more immediate reaction to the infection.

Analysing serum antibody levels using a blood test could help improve patient outcomes by allowing early identification of who may require certain treatments, and guide decisions around patient cohorting. In addition, serological testing allows for viral surveillance and its immunity in the community.

The study, “Critically Ill COVID-19 Patients Exhibit Anti-SARS-CoV-2 Serological Responses,” is published in the journal Pathophysiology.

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