What are Cytokines, and how do they relate to COVID-19?
Cytokines are small proteins that are released by the immune system, often when fighting a virus. When secreted into our system they are generally meant to have a positive effect by chemically signaling to infected cells to self-destruct in order to prevent spread to other cells. That doesn't seem like an issue, however when too many Cytokines are released it can result in a 'Cytokine Storm,' where healthy cells are instructed by Cytokines to start dying in mass, triggering a sometimes deadly autoimmune result.
COVID-19 is a stealthy disease, where most infections are either asymptomatic, hardly noticeable, or not severe, yet to a small percentage of people highly deadly. Research is showing that a 'Cytokine Storm' as a result of a COVID-19 infection causes an attack on lung cells, leading lung membranes to begin dying in mass causing Pneumonia, which is often the cause of death from most COVID-19 infections.
Understanding the effects of 'Cytokine Storms' in COVID-19 cases can enable clinicians to provide better care to seriously ill patients. There are multiple drugs and devices designed to decrease the amount of Cytokines that have been released within the system in order to prevent negative and possibly deadly effects of a 'Cytokine Storm' as a result of a COVID-19 infection.
For more reading on this topic, we were inspired to write this article from a New York Times article about 'Cytokine Storms.' Check it our here.