How quieting 'blood storms' could be key to treating severe COVID-19
In some coronavirus patients, the body turns its attacks on itself. Anti-inflammatory drugs may be able to help stop this friendly fire.
For many patients with severe COVID-19, the greatest threat to survival isn’t the coronavirus itself, but the deadly forces that the human body rouses to fight it.
While essential for defending against pathogens, the immune system can be a blunt and potent weapon that sometimes harms healthy cells. One version of a runaway immune response, called a “blood storm” or cytokine storm, causes excessive inflammation. It’s suspected to play a major role in some of the most critical COVID-19 cases—including those that land patients in the ICU or saddle them with ventilators.
Cytokine storms are “one of the main ways that people with COVID-19 end up passing away,” says Anna Helena Jonsson, a rheumatologist at Brigham and