People infected by the novel coronavirus can have symptoms that range from mild to deadly. Now, two new analyses suggest that some life-threatening cases can be traced to weak spots in patients’ immune systems.
At least 3.5 percent of study patients with severe COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, have mutations in genes involved in antiviral defense. And at least 10 percent of patients with severe disease create “auto-antibodies” that attack the immune system, instead of fighting the virus. The results, reported in two papers in the journal Science on September 24, 2020, identify some root causes of life-threatening COVID-19, says study leader Jean-Laurent Casanova, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at The Rockefeller University.
Seeing these harmful antibodies in so many patients — 101 out of 987 — was “a stunning observation,” he says. “These two papers provide the first explanation for why COVID-19 can be so