Dysregulated Levels of Circulating Autoantibodies against Neuronal and Nervous System Autoantigens in COVID-19 Patients

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Diagnostics (Basel, Switzerland)








COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; autoantibodies; autoantigens; autoimmunity; central nervous system


BACKGROUND: COVID-19 is a heterogenous disease resulting in long-term sequela in predisposed individuals. It is not uncommon that recovering patients endure non-respiratory ill-defined manifestations, including anosmia, and neurological and cognitive deficit persisting beyond recovery-a constellation of conditions that are grouped under the umbrella of long-term COVID-19 syndrome. Association between COVID-19 and autoimmune responses in predisposed individuals was shown in several studies. AIM AND METHODS: To investigate autoimmune responses against neuronal and CNS autoantigens in SARS-CoV-2-infected patients, we performed a cross-sectional study with 246 participants, including 169 COVID-19 patients and 77 controls. Levels of antibodies against the acetylcholine receptor, glutamate receptor, amyloid β peptide, alpha-synucleins, dopamine 1 receptor, dopamine 2 receptor, tau protein, GAD-65, N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, BDNF, cerebellar, ganglioside, myelin basic protein, myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein, S100-B, glial fibrillary acidic protein, and enteric nerve were measured using an Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA). Circulating levels of autoantibodies were compared between healthy controls and COVID-19 patients and then classified by disease severity (mild [ = 74], severe [ = 65], and requiring supplemental oxygen [ = 32]). RESULTS: COVID-19 patients were found to have dysregulated autoantibody levels correlating with the disease severity, e.g., IgG to dopamine 1 receptor, NMDA receptors, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, and myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein. Elevated levels of IgA autoantibodies against amyloid β peptide, acetylcholine receptor, dopamine 2 receptor, myelin basic protein, and α-synuclein were detected in COVID-19 patients compared with healthy controls. Lower IgA autoantibody levels against NMDA receptors, and IgG autoantibodies against glutamic acid decarboxylase 65, amyloid β peptide, tau protein, enteric nerve, and S100-B were detected in COVID-19 patients versus healthy controls. Some of these antibodies have known clinical correlations with symptoms commonly reported in the long COVID-19 syndrome. CONCLUSIONS: Overall, our study shows a widespread dysregulation in the titer of various autoantibodies against neuronal and CNS-related autoantigens in convalescent COVID-19 patients. Further research is needed to provide insight into the association between these neuronal autoantibodies and the enigmatic neurological and psychological symptoms reported in COVID-19 patients.