Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a novel, viral-induced respiratory disease that in ∼10-15% of patients progresses to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) triggered by a cytokine storm. In this Perspective, autopsy results and literature are presented supporting the hypothesis that a little known yet powerful function of neutrophils-the ability to form neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs)-may contribute to organ damage and mortality in COVID-19. We show lung infiltration of neutrophils in an autopsy specimen from a patient who succumbed to COVID-19. We discuss prior reports linking aberrant NET formation to pulmonary diseases, thrombosis, mucous secretions in the airways, and cytokine production. If our hypothesis is correct, targeting NETs directly and/or indirectly with existing drugs may reduce the clinical severity of COVID-19.
© 2020 Barnes et al.