This finding may help develop a new COVID-19 vaccine

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Idiopathic inflammatory myopathies, such as dermatomyositis, are a group of diseases characterized by inflamed skeletal muscles that may also involve the lungs, heart, and skin.

Although scientists do not know what causes myositis, they do know the immune system is involved and genetic and environmental factors, such as viral or bacterial infections, may contribute to disease risk.

In a recent study from the University of Manchester, researchers have found parts of the COVID-19 virus that activate an immune response and which could act as targets for vaccine development.

The study performed before the pandemic used new technology to analyze the total immune response in patients with musculoskeletal disease dermatomyositis and identified a link to lifetime exposure to coronavirus infection.

The study is published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. One author is Dr. Janine Lamb from The University of Manchester.

In the study, the team used a novel method to identify antibodies produced by the immune system against all types of infections that are unique or enriched in people with dermatomyositis.

The work sheds new light on how microbial infections may contribute over time to this disease, although the team stresses that the identification of antibodies against coronaviruses in people with dermatomyositis does not necessarily mean the virus causes the disease.

Three specific sections of the bat coronavirus proteins that stimulated an immune response were highly similar to the human SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

The team says the comparison of the 20 individuals with dermatomyositis to 20 healthy controls has shed some light on the immune response against coronaviruses and could suggest targets for vaccine development against COVID-19.

The findings need to be extended to a larger sample of people with myositis and could be investigated in individuals with other related diseases.

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