Autoantibodies to interferon(IFN)-α and IFN-ω (type I IFNs) were recently reported as causative for severe COVID-19 in the general population. Autoantibodies against IFN-α and IFN-ω are present in almost all patients with Autoimmune-Polyendocrine-Syndrome Type 1 (APS-1) caused by biallelic deleterious or heterozygous dominant mutations in AIRE. We therefore hypothesized that autoantibodies against type I IFNs also predispose patients with APS-1 to severe COVID-19. We prospectively studied six patients with APS-1 between April 1st, 2020 and April 1st, 2021. Biobanked pre-COVID-19 sera of APS-1 subjects were tested for neutralizing autoantibodies to IFN-αand IFN-ω. The patients ́ sera ability to block recombinant human IFN-α and IFN-ω was assessed by assays quantifying phosphorylation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 (STAT1) as well as infection-based IFN-neutralization assays. We describe four patients with APS-1 and pre-existing high titers of neutralizing autoantibodies to IFN-α and IFN-ω who contracted SARS-CoV-2, yet developed only mild symptoms of COVID-19. None of the patients developed dyspnoea, oxygen requirement or high temperature. All infected patients with APS-1 shared female sex and age younger than 26 years. Clinical penetrance of neutralizing autoantibodies against type I IFNs for severe COVID-19 is not complete.
Christian Meisel, Bengisu Akbil, Tim Meyer, Erwin Lankes, Victor M. Corman, Olga Staudacher, Nadine Unterwalder, Uwe Kölsch, Christian Drosten, Marcus A. Mall, Tilmann Kallinich, Dirk Schnabel, Christine Goffinet, Horst von Bernuth