A small observational study on use of Anakinra, the rheumatoid arthritis drug, to treat COVID-19 patients found that high-dose Anakinra was safe and was associated with respiratory improvements and reduced signs of cytokine storm in 72% (21/29) of patients, The Lancet Rheumatology journal reported on May 7, 2020.
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Cytokine storm is an overreaction of the body’s immune system and it may be fatal to the patient. Many different cells in the body including those of the immune system release cytokines which are small proteins. For instance, when the virus behind COVID-19 enters the lungs, immune cells attack them causing a localised inflammation. The immune systems of some patients release cytokines uncontrollably causing “cytokine storms”. It is disastrous as it leads to activation of more immune cells causing hyper-inflammation. It may harm the patient.
Overactive immune cells may attack healthy tissues such as blood vessels causing leaks, fall in blood pressure and accumulation of fluid in lungs. They may also attack many organs leading to their failure. During the storm, blood levels of the protein –ferritin- and the inflammation indicator- C-reactive protein, which is made by the liver increase. Anakinra can quieten the storm.