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The Cytokine Storm

The Cytokine Storm

First coined in 1993 to describe an immune reaction to a bone marrow transplant,[1] a ‘cytokine storm’ results from a sudden and uncontrolled increase in levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines that target the body’s own cells. This potentially life threatening autoimmune reaction can be triggered by infections, certain drugs and autoimmune conditions such as arthritis.

When triggered, white blood cells release cytokines as part of the body’s natural response to infection. Major categories of cytokines include: interferons, interleukins, chemokines, colony-stimulating factors (CSFs), tumor necrosis factor (TNF).

These signalling cytokines “can promote a wide range of functions, some of which involve the control of cell proliferation and differentiation processes, autocrine, paracrine and/or endocrine activity, as well as regulating immune and inflammatory responses.”[2]

However, the hyper inflammation caused by the uncontrolled release of cytokines in a storm can result in organ failure and possible death. Some COVID-19 patients with a “dysfunctional immune response” have had “massive cytokine and chemokine release” exhibiting higher levels of “TNFα, INFγ, IL-1β, IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-7, IL-9, IL-10, IL-12, IL-13, IL-17, G-CSF, GM-CSF, MCSF, HGF and chemokines CXCL8, MCP1, IP10, MIP1α and MIP1β.”[3]

In attempts to inhibit cytokines and/or their receptors include anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids, chloroquine, and colchicines.[4]


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