COVID-19, immune system response, hyperinflammation and repurposing antirheumatic drugs

Turk J Med Sci. 2020 Apr 21;50(SI-1):620-632. doi: 10.3906/sag-2004-168.


In the Wuhan Province of China, in December 2019, the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) has caused a severe involvement of the lower respiratory tract leading to an acute respiratory syndrome. Subsequently, coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) provoked a pandemic which is considered a life-threatening disease. The SARS-CoV-2, a family member of betacoronaviruses, possesses single-stranded positive-sense RNA with typical structural proteins, involving the envelope, membrane, nucleocapsid and spike proteins that are responsible for the viral infectivity, and nonstructural proteins. The effectual host immune response including innate and adaptive immunity against SARS-Cov-2 seems crucial to control and resolve the viral infection. However, the severity and outcome of the COVID-19 might be associated with the excessive production of proinflammatory cytokines “cytokine storm” leading to an acute respiratory distress syndrome. Regretfully, the exact pathophysiology and treatment, especially for the severe COVID-19, is still uncertain. The results of preliminary studies have shown that immune-modulatory or immune-suppressive treatments such as hydroxychloroquine, interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-1 antagonists, commonly used in rheumatology, might be considered as treatment choices for COVID-19, particularly in severe disease. In this review, to gain better information about appropriate anti-inflammatory treatments, mostly used in rheumatology for COVID-19, we have focused the attention on the structural features of SARS-CoV-2, the host immune response against SARS-CoV-2 and its association with the cytokine storm.

Keywords: COVID-19; cytokine storm; inflammation; rheumatology; treatment; antiinflammatory.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / drug therapy*
  • Coronavirus Infections / immunology*
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Drug Repositioning*
  • Humans
  • Immune System
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / drug therapy*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / immunology*
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Cytokines
  • Immunosuppressive Agents