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Immune mechanism in COVID-19 patients triggers cytokine storm

Publicado em 02 dezembro 2020

Por Karina Toledo, da Agência FAPESP

An article reporting the findings of the study, which was supported by FAPESP, has just been published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. According to the authors, the findings support the use of inflammasome activation both as a marker of disease prognosis, helping medical teams identify high-risk patients at an early stage, and as a potential therapeutic target in severe COVID-19.

Drugs already approved for human use are capable of inhibiting inflammasome activation. These drugs can now be tested in the context of infection by SARS-CoV-2, " Dario Zamboni, a professor at USP's Ribeirão Preto Medical School (FMRP-USP) and principal investigator for the study, told Agência FAPESP.

Almost all immune cells are equipped with the protein complex that constitutes the inflammasome, he explained. When one of these proteins identifies a sign of danger, such as a viral or bacterial particle, for example, the defense machinery is activated.

As a result, the cell enters a process of programmed death (a type of inflammatory death called pyroptosis) and releases into the bloodstream signaling molecules called cytokines that attract to the site a veritable army of white blood cells. This is the onset of an inflammatory response that is ultimately designed to destruct the potential threat to the organism.

The response to various pathogens involves inflammasome activation, and most of the time this blocks the infection and protects the organism. However, in some COVID-19 patients, the defense system appears to be overactivated, and we're now trying to understand why this happens." Dario Zamboni, Study Principal Investigator and Professor, Ribeirão Preto Medical School (FMRP-USP)

The involvement of this immune mechanism in the systemic inflammation that is characteristic of severe COVID-19 has been studied by scientists in several countries over the past few months. The Ribeirão Preto group is the first to demonstrate the activation of a specific type of inflammasome in…