Rheumatoid Arthritis Drug May Prevent Lung Damage From COVID

October 25, 2021

A recent study has indicated that the autoimmune disease drug anakinra aided in the prevention of lung damage and death in mice infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Inflammatory lung vascular leakage can be presented in cases of severe COVID-19, when severe inflammation leads to the buildup of fluid in the lungs, and directly impacts the absorption of oxygen. It is estimated that 5-10% of patients develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). “Hyperinflammation and cytokine storm are key pathogenic features underlying severe COVID-19 mediating ARDS and respiratory failure.” Mice in the study also showed signs of leakage from blood vessels in their lungs, as “analyses of postmortem lungs from COVID-19 patients and animal models show[ed] severe lung endothelial injury following the SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

The rheumatoid arthritis drug targets a specific molecular receptor that regulates inflammation, thereby suppressing a select immune pathway, versus suppressing the entire immune system. Mice who received the drug showed reduced signs of severe COVID-19, including less fluid buildup and less scarring of the lung tissue. Survival outcomes also increased. Researchers hypothesized that by assessing IL-1 receptor pathways, physicians may be able to detect when a patient’s immune system is about have a hyper response. The next step is conducting a clinical trial to investigate this drug in human participants experiencing severe COVID-19.