COVID-19 Evidence Alerts
from McMaster PLUSTM

Current best evidence for clinical care (more info)

Manuscript Quirch M, Lee J, Rehman S Hazards of the Cytokine Storm and Cytokine-Targeted Therapy in Patients With COVID-19: Review. J Med Internet Res. 2020 Aug 13;22(8):e20193. doi: 10.2196/20193.

BACKGROUND: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has challenged medicine and health care on a global scale. Its impact and frightening mortality rate are in large part attributable to the fact that there is a lack of available treatments. It has been shown that in patients who are severely ill, SARS-CoV-2 can lead to an inflammatory response known as cytokine storm, which involves activation and release of inflammatory cytokines in a positive feedback loop of pathogen-triggered inflammation. Currently, cytokine storm is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in SARS-CoV-2, but there is no proven treatment to combat this systemic response.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this paper is to study the cytokine storm response in SARS-CoV-2 and to explore the early treatment options for patients who are critically ill with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the early stages of the pandemic by reviewing the literature.

METHODS: A literature review was performed from December 1, 2000, to April 4, 2020, to explore and compare therapies that target cytokine storm among SARS-CoV-2 and prior coronavirus cases.

RESULTS: A total of 38 eligible studies including 24 systematic reviews, 5 meta-analyses, 5 experimental model studies, 7 cohort studies, and 4 case reports matched the criteria.

CONCLUSIONS: The severity of the cytokine storm, measured by elevated levels of interleukin-1B, interferon-?, interferon-inducible protein 10, and monocyte chemoattractant protein 1, was associated with COVID-19 disease severity. Many treatment options with different targets have been proposed during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, ranging from targeting the virus itself to managing the systemic inflammation caused by the virus and the excessive cytokine response. Among the different agents to manage cytokine storm in patients with COVID-19, there is developing support for convalescent plasma therapy particularly for patients who are critically ill or mechanically ventilated and resistant to antivirals and supportive care. Treatment options that were proposed in the beginning phases of the pandemic were multidimensional, and further research is needed to develop a more established treatment guideline.

Discipline / Specialty Area Score
Hospital Doctor/Hospitalists
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Infectious Disease
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Intensivist/Critical Care
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Internal Medicine and its subspecialties
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