Expert Opin Biol Ther. 2020 Aug 31. doi: 10.1080/14712598.2020.1817372. Online ahead of print.
INTRODUCTION: SARS-CoV-2 is a novel coronavirus that was first isolated from a group of patients hospitalised with pneumonia in China at the end of 2019, and, in February 2020, the syndrome it caused was named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by the World Health Organization. In the absence of specific antiviral treatments capable of neutralising the etiological agent, one therapeutic approach is to control the cytokine storm responsible for the most severe forms of the disease. The characteristic cytokine profile of severely affected patients is increased levels of interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-2, IL-6, IL-7, IL-8, and tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α).
AREAS COVERED: This article discusses the pathogenesis of COVID-19 as a rationale for using the biological and targeted synthetic drugs used in rheumatology (anti-TNF, anti-IL-1 and anti-IL-6 agents and baricitinib) to treat the disease, and provides key information concerning their potential benefits and adverse effects.
EXPERT OPINION: Interleukin inhibition seems to be a promising means of treating COVID-19 patients when respiratory function declines (or even earlier) if there are laboratory data indicating the presence of a cytokine storm because the interleukins are key drivers of inflammation. However, it is important to consider the risks and benefits of biological agents carefully, and critically analyse the evidence concerning their use in COVID-19 patients.