(p. A9) Doctors have used the term “cytokine storm” to describe an overactive immune response triggered by external pathogens such as bacterial and viral infections.
Proteins called cytokines are part of the immune system’s arsenal for fighting disease. When too many are released into the bloodstream too quickly, however, it can have disastrous results, including organ failure and death.
As with other diseases, it is a mystery why cytokine storms are experienced by some but not all Covid-19 patients, doctors say. Genetics may be a factor.
. . .
Drugs called corticosteroids can be used to treat patients with cytokine storms, but studies are mixed on their effectiveness, with some studies indicating that Covid-19 patients may be at a higher risk of death when treated with steroids. Some doctors are reluctant to use steroids because they broadly dampen the immune response, which is risky in patients fighting infections.
Drugs targeting specific cytokines rather than the entire immune system may be more effective, doctors say.
Among the most promising targeted treatments, doctors say, is Roche’s rheumatoid-arthritis drug tocilizumab, which is marketed under the brand name Actemra. The drug was approved in 2017 to treat cytokine storms caused by cancer treatments known as CAR-T cell therapies.
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(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 9, 2020, and has the title “Haywire Immune Response Eyed in Coronavirus Deaths, Treatment.”)