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Frontiers of Medicine >> 2023, Volume 17, Issue 6 doi: 10.1007/s11684-023-1044-4

Cytokine storm and translating IL-6 biology into effective treatments for COVID-19

Received: 2023-05-15 Accepted: 2023-12-27 Available online: 2023-12-27

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As of May 3, 2023, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in more than 760 million confirmed cases and over 6.9 million deaths. Several patients have developed pneumonia, which can deteriorate into acute respiratory distress syndrome. The primary etiology may be attributed to cytokine storm, which is triggered by the excessive release of proinflammatory cytokines and subsequently leads to immune dysregulation. Considering that high levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) have been detected in several highly pathogenic coronavirus-infected diseases, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2002, the Middle East respiratory syndrome in 2012, and COVID-19, the IL-6 pathway has emerged as a key in the pathogenesis of this hyperinflammatory state. Thus, we review the history of cytokine storm and the process of targeting IL-6 signaling to elucidate the pivotal role played by tocilizumab in combating COVID-19.

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