Type 1 interferon auto-antibodies are elevated in patients with decompensated liver cirrhosis

Gordon Greville, Sinead Cremen, Shauna O'Neill, Sarah Azarian, Gareth Brady, William McCormack, Adam H Dyer, Nollaig M Bourke, Olivier Touzelet, David Courtney, Ultan F. Power, Paul Dowling, Tom K Gallagher, Connor G G Bamford, Mark W Robinson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Patients with decompensated liver cirrhosis, in particular those classified as Childs-Pugh class C, are at increased risk of severe coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) upon infection with severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The biological mechanisms underlying this are unknown. We aimed to examine the levels of serum intrinsic antiviral proteins as well as alterations in the innate antiviral immune response in patients with decompensated liver cirrhosis. Serum from 53 SARS-CoV-2 unexposed and unvaccinated individuals, with decompensated liver cirrhosis undergoing assessment for liver transplantation, were screened using SARS-CoV-2 pseudoparticle and SARS-CoV-2 virus assays. The ability of serum to inhibit interferon (IFN) signalling was assessed using a cell-based reporter assay. Severity of liver disease was assessed using two clinical scoring systems, the Child-Pugh class and the MELD-Na score. In the presence of serum from SARS-CoV-2 unexposed patients with decompensated liver cirrhosis there was no association between SARS-CoV-2 pseudoparticle infection or live SARS-CoV-2 virus infection and severity of liver disease. Type I IFNs are a key component of the innate antiviral response. Serum from patients with decompensated liver cirrhosis contained elevated levels of auto-antibodies capable of binding IFN-α2b compared to healthy controls. High MELD-Na scores were associated with the ability of these auto-antibodies to neutralize type I IFN signalling by IFN-α2b but not IFN-β1a. Our results demonstrate that neutralizing auto-antibodies targeting IFN-α2b are increased in patients with high MELD-Na scores. The presence of neutralizing type I IFN-specific auto-antibodies may increase the likelihood of viral infections, including severe COVID-19, in patients with decompensated liver cirrhosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177–189
Number of pages13
JournalClinical and Experimental Immunology
Volume215
Issue number2
Early online date31 Oct 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024

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