Treatment of Severe COVID-19 with Tocilizumab Mitigates Cytokine Storm and Averts Mechanical Ventilation During Acute Respiratory Distress: A Case Report and Literature Review.Trop Med Infect Dis. 2020 Jul 03; 5(3)TM
COVID-19, caused by the novel severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), emerged in Wuhan, China, in 2019 and has resulted in the current pandemic. The disease continues to pose a major therapeutic challenge. Patient mortality is ultimately caused by acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Cytokine release syndrome (or "cytokine storm") is likely to be a contributing factor to ARDS in many patients. Because interleukin 6 (IL-6) is known to play a key role in inflammation, IL-6 receptor inhibitors such as tocilizumab may potentially treat COVID-19 by attenuating cytokine release. We present the case of a 48-year-old male with severe COVID-19, on the verge of meeting intubation requirements, who needed progressive oxygen support for respiratory distress. The patient was treated with a non-weight-based dosage of tocilizumab to prevent the onset of a cytokine storm. We chose to administer an IL-6 inhibitor because of the gradually increasing levels of acute phase reactants identified on serial blood draws, as well as his declining respiratory status. The treatment was well-tolerated in conjunction with standard drug therapies for COVID-19 (hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, and zinc). The patient subsequently experienced marked improvements in his respiratory symptoms and overall clinical status over the following days. We believe that tocilizumab played a substantial role in his ability to avert clinical decline, particularly the need for mechanical ventilation. Ultimately, the patient was downgraded from the ICU and discharged within days. We highlight the potential of IL-6 inhibitors to prevent the progression of respiratory disease to a point requiring ventilator support. This case underscores the potential importance of early serial measurements of IL-6 and cytokine storm-associated acute phase reactants, such as ferritin, D-dimer, and C-reactive protein, in guiding clinical decision-making in the management of patients with suspected COVID-19.