GeNeuro presented at the Schizophrenia International Research Society (SIRS) congress from April 6 to 10 in Florence, Italy, the first data resulting from their collaboration launched in 2021, in the context of COVID. The first results presented in Florence were based on the analysis of blood samples from 104 patients hospitalized between January and March 2021 for psychiatric disorders, either for the first time or because of relapses, in the psychiatry department of Prof. Leboyer in Créteil at Hôpital H. Mondor, and 63 controls. The objective of this analysis was to measure the coronavirus infection rate in a population with no reported COVID disease and to search for links between SARS-CoV-2 infection and the endogenous retroviral protein W-ENV.
The analyses were performed by the INSERM "We-Met" platform at the Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse. SARS-CoV-2 specific serological analyses showed that 82% of the patients admitted to the psychiatric ward had been exposed to the COVID-19 virus. The detection of W-ENV protein was positive in the serum of 40% of the patients studied, but almost exclusively and very significantly in patients seropositive for SARS-CoV-2 (p<0.01).
The presence of W-ENV protein in the blood was also strongly correlated with elevated levels of cytokines characteristic of innate inflammation such as TNF-a, IL-1ß or IL8 (p<0.0001 for all three). Studies published in 2021 had shown that W-ENV expression was triggered by SARS-CoV-2 in the white blood cells and tissues of about 20% of healthy donors, suggesting individual susceptibility. This protein was also detected in the blood of hospitalized COVID-19 patients where the amount of expression in lymphocytes was associated with disease progression severity.
The persistence of W-ENV expression long after the acute phase of the disease and its association with immunoinflammatory manifestations support the biological hypothesis of its importance in the long-term neuropsychiatric syndromes suffered by many post-COVID patients.