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SARS-CoV-2, the virus that caused the 1998 SARS epidemic, can be detected in the blood of people who died from COVID-19, but whether this viral particle can be used to predict a person’s ongoing risk of developing cardiovascular disease is unknown. A team of researchers at Karolinska Institutet have now shown that antibodies between SARS-CoV-2 and insulin-like-1 receptor type I antibodies (IL1) can be used in animal models to predict which of these patients will develop cardiovascular disease.

SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads mainly through droplets produced by sneezing or coughing. The infection is accompanied by immune cells called monocytes that produce large quantities of inflammatory proteins, but does not produce enough IL1 molecules. Previous studies have shown that IL1 in monocytes drives the development of atherosclerosis and atherosclerotic plaques in arteries, but how IL1 levels can predict how sick a person will become infected and whether they will progress to cardiovascular diseases has remained unknown.

Now a team based in the department of experimental infectious diseases, Karolinska Institutet’s, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, has conducted a study to answer this question. The team used ELISA assays (Immunoblotting for Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease) to identify SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the blood of 163 COVID-19 patients, some infected with and unaffected by the virus, and the other 109 healthy controls. The study has shown that SARS-CoV-2 antibodies isolated from the plasma of COVID-19 patients and those with primary immune sequestration, or negative-1st-degree-illness, can be used to classify COVID-19 patients as having either also experienced first-degree-illness, or having both conditions.

“The results of the study are important because they indicate that the use of human serum samples to monitor for future cardiovascular disease risk under severely chronic conditions could be useful in the future,” says Per Samt of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health. From this study, it is, however, not only proved that the antibodies from the patients can be used to predict atherosclerosis or other cardiovascular diseases, but also that they have a potential to be used for the profiling of people with HIV/AIDS to assess cardiovascular disease risk.

“Our study sheds new light on how SARS-CoV-2 viruses can affect the physiology of our immune systems and our ability to keep our bodies healthy inside our bodies. In particular, it shows that antibodies with different genetic sequences can be used as a biomarker which might be useful when analyzing blood plasma from COVID-19 patients. This study has therefore potential to influence our current understanding of the relationship between the SARS virus and our cardiovascular system and how COVID-19 disease can be successfully managed,” adds Per Samt.

The study is published in the specialist journal PNAS.

Copyright 2009-2020, Urso Chappell