After analyzing the immune characteristics of patients with severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), we have identified that pathogenic T cells and inflammatory monocytes with large amount of interleukin 6 secreting may incite the inflammatory storm, which may potentially be curbed through monoclonal antibody that targets the IL-6 pathways. Here, we aimed to assess the efficacy of tocilizumab in severe patients with COVID-19 and seek a therapeutic strategy. The patients diagnosed as severe or critical COVID-19 in The First Affiliated Hospital of University of Science and Technology of China (Anhui Provincial Hospital) and Anhui Fuyang Second People's Hospital were given tocilizumab in addition to routine therapy between 5 and 14 February 2020. The changes of clinical manifestations, computerized tomography (CT) scan image, and laboratory examinations were retrospectively analyzed. Fever returned to normal on the first day, and other symptoms improved remarkably within a few days. Within 5 d after tocilizumab, 15 of the 20 patients (75.0%) had lowered their oxygen intake, and 1 patient needed no oxygen therapy. CT scans manifested that the lung lesion opacity absorbed in 19 patients (90.5%). The percentage of lymphocytes in peripheral blood, which decreased in 85.0% of patients (17/20) before treatment (mean, 15.52 ± 8.89%), returned to normal in 52.6% of patients (10/19) on the fifth day after treatment. Abnormally elevated C-reactive protein decreased significantly in 84.2% of patients (16/19). No obvious adverse reactions were observed. All patients have been discharged on average 15.1 d after giving tocilizumab. Preliminary data show that tocilizumab, which improved the clinical outcome immediately in severe and critical COVID-19 patients, is an effective treatment to reduce mortality.
Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; cytokine storm; interleukin-6; tocilizumab.
Copyright © 2020 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.