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MDPI, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 13(23), p. 7209, 2022

DOI: 10.3390/ijms23137209



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Long COVID: Association of Functional Autoantibodies against G-Protein-Coupled Receptors with an Impaired Retinal Microcirculation

This paper is made freely available by the publisher.
This paper is made freely available by the publisher.

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Long COVID (LC) describes the clinical phenotype of symptoms after infection with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Diagnostic and therapeutic options are limited, as the pathomechanism of LC is elusive. As the number of acute SARS-CoV-2 infections was and is large, LC will be a challenge for the healthcare system. Previous studies revealed an impaired blood flow, the formation of microclots, and autoimmune mechanisms as potential factors in this complex interplay. Since functionally active autoantibodies against G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCR-AAbs) were observed in patients after SARS-CoV-2 infection, this study aimed to correlate the appearance of GPCR-AAbs with capillary microcirculation. The seropositivity of GPCR-AAbs was measured by an established cardiomyocyte bioassay in 42 patients with LC and 6 controls. Retinal microcirculation was measured by OCT–angiography and quantified as macula and peripapillary vessel density (VD) by the Erlangen-Angio Tool. A statistical analysis yielded impaired VD in patients with LC compared to the controls, which was accentuated in female persons. A significant decrease in macula and peripapillary VD for AAbs targeting adrenergic β2-receptor, MAS-receptor angiotensin-II-type-1 receptor, and adrenergic α1-receptor were observed. The present study might suggest that a seropositivity of GPCR-AAbs can be linked to an impaired retinal capillary microcirculation, potentially mirroring the systemic microcirculation with consecutive clinical symptoms.