What Is A Cytokine Storm? 

What Is A Cytokine Storm? 

You might not have heard much about cytokine storms until the COVID 19 pandemic. The pandemic has brought the term to the forefront of information. It describes an overreaction of our immune system in which the system releases immune messengers, called cytokines to the bloodstream. The cytokines can be released out of proportion to the threat or even long after the virus is no longer a threat. This will lead to the immune system attacking the tissues of the body resulting in significant harm. 


The immune response will be exaggerated and it can lead to damage to blood vessels, lungs, liver, and kidneys, and can also increase the formation of blood clots in the body. As per the experts, the cytokine storm can ultimately cause more harm than the coronavirus itself. 


Treating Cytokine Storm 

The scientific world is only coming to understand this phenomenon and how to treat it. However, for any type of treatment to be successful, it is important to catch the storm as it is happening. Though there are no perfect diagnostic tests for a cytokine storm, there are some signs that a cytokine storm is underway. For instance, a blood test can help you find out if the protein ferritin is elevated or if the concentration of the inflammation indicator C-reactive protein is high in the blood. 


An overactive immune system is not subjective to COVID-19 infection. It can be seen in cancer patients undergoing immunotherapy and people with autoimmune disorders. Prescription medicine like steroids is time and again the first alternative to treat cytokine storms. Steroids are a broad spectrum and can reduce the immune response. However, the system is required at a lower potency to fight infections and intruders. Some medications block specific cytokines and leave the good immune response intact. These medications have worked for rheumatoid arthritis and cancer patients and are now tested for COVID-19 patients. 


Studies and research also show that increased levels of HMGB1, which are molecules that trigger the release of inflammatory cytokines, are linked with many chronic and acute inflammation-related disorders, which include many that can lead to serious complications for COVID-19 patients. These include: 

  • Heart attacks, lipid disturbances, coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis, congestive heart failure, and strokes.
  • Autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and many others. 
  • Diabetes
  • Immedicable obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.
  • Cancer
  • Obesity 

Even though more research is needed, HMGB1 neutralizing antibodies can be the key to ensuring protection from chronic inflammation-induced diseases.