Rizk, John G.; Kalantar-Zadeh, Kamyar; Mehra, Mandeep R.; Lavie, Carl J.; Rizk, Youssef; Forthal, Donald N.
The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 associated coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) illness is a syndrome of viral replication in concert with a host inflammatory response. The cytokine storm and viral evasion of cellular immune responses may play an equally important role in the pathogenesis, clinical manifestation, and outcomes of COVID-19. Systemic proinflammatory cytokines and biomarkers are elevated as the disease progresses towards its advanced stages, and correlate with worse chances of survival. Immune modulators have the potential to inhibit cytokines and treat the cytokine storm. A literature search using PubMed, Google Scholar, and ClinicalTrials.gov was conducted through 8 July 2020 using the search terms 'coronavirus', 'immunology', 'cytokine storm', 'immunomodulators', 'pharmacology', 'severe acute respiratory syndrome 2', 'SARS-CoV-2', and 'COVID-19'. Specific immune modulators include anti-cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-1 and IL-6 receptor antagonists (e.g. anakinra, tocilizumab, sarilumab, siltuximab), Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors (e.g. baricitinib, ruxolitinib), anti-tumor necrosis factor-alpha (e.g. adalimumab, infliximab), granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factors (e.g. gimsilumab, lenzilumab, namilumab), and convalescent plasma, with promising to negative trials and other data. Non-specific immune modulators include human immunoglobulin, corticosteroids such as dexamethasone, interferons, statins, angiotensin pathway modulators, macrolides (e.g. azithromycin, clarithromycin), hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, colchicine, and prostaglandin D2 modulators such as ramatroban. Dexamethasone 6 mg once daily (either by mouth or by intravenous injection) for 10 days may result in a reduction in mortality in COVID-19 patients by one-third for patients on ventilators, and by one-fifth for those receiving oxygen. Research efforts should focus not only on the most relevant immunomodulatory strategies but also on the optimal timing of such interventions to maximize therapeutic outcomes. In this review, we discuss the potential role and safety of these agents in the management of severe COVID-19, and their impact on survival and clinical symptoms.