The Covid-19 infection presents as silent, mild, moderate or severe illness. The last one is more common among males than females and age is a major risk factor.
A recent study report showed that about 0.3 per cent of the population had circulating autoantibodies against interferons and the autoantibodies were present even before Covid-19 infections.
Such autoantibodies, therefore, were the main cause of severe Covid-19 illness. The autoantibodies level in serum increases with age and is common in males but less common among asymptomatic and paucisymptomatic patients.
Interferons are powerful antiviral cytokines that reduce development of moderate to severe Covid-19 illness. The antibodies are associated with autoimmune disease conditions such as thymoma, systemic lupus erythematosus, poly endocrine disease, myasthenia gravis and rheumatoid syndrome among others.
These diseases affect aged men more than they do women and that partly explains why males are more vulnerable to severe Covid-19 illness than females.
Investing more in research and treatment of autoimmune disorders would be a critical step towards addressing Covid-19 morbidities and mortalities.
Appropriate and timely treatment of autoimmune infections will not only save millions of lives at risk of developing severe Covid-19 illness but also resources that can be diverted to other important sectors.
Random but well-coordinated seroprevalence studies should be done in Kenya to determine the number of people with circulating autoantibodies. That would help to inform policy on appropriate deployment of drug regimens to reduce incidence of respiratory inflictions in the society.
Dr Mutua is the director, ImmunoBiologic Research/Consultancy Centre, Makueni. [email protected]