While first and foremost considered a respiratory infection, COVID-19 can result in complications affecting multiple organs. Immune responses in COVID-19 can both protect against the disease as well as drive it. Insights into these responses, and specifically the targets being recognised by the immune system, are of vital importance in understanding the side effects of COVID-19 and associated pathologies. The body’s adaptive immunity recognises and responds against specific targets (antigens) expressed by foreign pathogens, but not usually to target self-antigens. However, if the immune system becomes dysfunctional, adaptive immune cells can react to self-antigens, which can result in autoimmune disease. Viral infections are well reported to be associated with, or exacerbate, autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In COVID-19 patients, both new onset MS and SLE, as well as the occurrence of other autoimmune-like pathologies, have been reported. Additionally, the presence of autoantibodies, both with and without known associations to autoimmune diseases, have been found. Herein we describe the mechanisms of virally induced autoimmunity and summarise some of the emerging reports on the autoimmune-like diseases and autoreactivity that is reported to be associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection.
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