Potential Immunotherapeutic Targets for Hypoxia Due to COVI-Flu

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The world is currently embroiled in a pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a respiratory illness caused by the novel betacoronavirus severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The severity of COVID-19 disease ranges from asymptomatic to fatal acute respiratory distress syndrome. In few patients, the disease undergoes phenotypic differentiation between 7 and 14 days of acute illness, either resulting in full recovery or symptom escalation. However, the mechanism of such variation is not clear, but the facts suggest that patient's immune status, comorbidities, and the systemic effects of the viral infection (potentially depending on the SARS-CoV-2 strain involved) play a key role. Subsequently, patients with the most severe symptoms tend to have poor outcomes, manifest severe hypoxia, and possess elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (including IL-1β, IL-6, IFN-γ, and TNF-α) along with elevated levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10, marked lymphopenia, and elevated neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratios. Based on the available evidence, we propose a mechanism wherein SARS-CoV-2 infection induces direct organ damage while also fueling an IL-6-mediated cytokine release syndrome (CRS) and hypoxia, resulting in escalating systemic inflammation, multi-organ damage, and end-organ failure. Elevated IL-6 and hypoxia together predisposes patients to pulmonary hypertension, and the presence of asymptomatic hypoxia in COVID-19 further compounds this problem. Due to the similar downstream mediators, we discuss the potential synergistic effects and systemic ramifications of SARS-CoV-2 and influenza virus during co-infection, a phenomenon we have termed "COVI-Flu." Additionally, the differences between CRS and cytokine storm are highlighted. Finally, novel management approaches, clinical trials, and therapeutic strategies toward both SARS-CoV-2 and COVI-Flu infection are discussed, highlighting host response optimization and systemic inflammation reduction.

Original languageEnglish
Article number32649367
Pages (from-to)438-450
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

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