Evaluating Serum from COVID-19 Patients for Psychotomimetic Autoantibodies

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an emerging global health emergency caused by the novel coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The global outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 infection has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Accumulating evidence indicates that COVID-19 patients commonly develop neurological and psychiatric symptoms. Several case reports of COVID-19 with severe neurological complications reported NMDA-Receptor Encephalitis (NMDARE). NMDARE is an autoimmune disease, where the body generates antibodies against NMDA-Receptors in the brain. Most of the people with Anti-NMDAR Antibodies found in their sera do not have any symptoms. This may reflect the complexity of autoimmune diseases. Patients with severe COVID-19 infection have some elements of damage in the blood-brain barrier (BBB) due to the Cytokine storm. However, not only patients with severe COVID-19 have an inflammatory reaction, but patients with mild symptoms could also have inflammatory reactions. We assumed that the damage to the blood-brain barrier caused by the inflammatory reaction allows the antibodies to cross the BBB and causes neuro-psychiatric complications in COVID-19 patients. To further test this hypothesis, we have collaborated with the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Michigan Medical School to develop an assay to predict if COVID-19 patients will develop Neuropsychiatric symptoms based on the Anti-NMDAR antibodies levels in the serum and to further assess if there is an association between the circulating Anti-NMDAR antibodies and the severity of the neurological symptoms. Please learn more about this project