Potential Immunotherapeutic Targets For Hypoxia Due to COVI-FLU

Yan Leyfman, Timothy K Erick, Sandeep S Reddy, Sagar Galwankar, Prabath W B Nanayakkara, Salvatore Di Somma, Pushpa Sharma, Stanislaw P Stawicki, Irshad H Chaudry
Shock 2020 July 8
The world is currently embroiled in a pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a respiratory illness caused by the novel betacoronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The severity of COVID-19 disease ranges from asymptomatic to fatal acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). In few patients, the disease undergoes phenotypic differentiation between 7-14 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, co-morbidities, 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.

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