Randall Cron, MD, PhD: Cytokine Storm Syndrome and COVID-19

September 12, 2020

COVID-19 is associated with its own cytokine storm syndrome.

In an interview with HCPLive®, Randall Cron, MD, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, discussed his presentation on cytokine storm syndrome given at the Clinical Congress of Rheumatology (CCR) East meeting.

Cytokine storm syndrome is a generic term that envelops various hyperinflammatory conditions—such as macrophage activation syndrome (MAS) and hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH)—yet it would be inaccurate to consider them all identical. Cron stressed the importance of their distinctions, which influences identification within patient populations and treatment decisions.

He also briefly touched on genetic predispositions to these conditions, hinting at a potential novel gene that physicians and rheumatologists should be aware of.

Additionally, he talked about the intersection between cytokine storm syndrome and COVID-19.

“Many of us think that COVID-19 has a cytokine storm. It falls under that umbrella as well,” he said. “It’s unique from other cytokine storms, but it has enough features that treating the cytokine storm is really important to prolonged survival.”

He went on to explain that if patients become hospitalized due to the virus, and present with inflammation or show evidence of a cytokine storm, then an intervention becomes all the more necessary.

Although proper interventions are uncertain at the moment, there is some emerging evidence that moderate doses of glucocorticoids may increase chance of survival.

“Maybe even some of the targeted approaches that we use in rheumatology to go after individual cytokines or groups of cytokines may also be beneficial,” Cron concluded.