Can Unconventional Immunomodulatory Agents Help Alleviate COVID-19 Symptoms and Severity?

mSphere. 2020 May 13;5(3):e00288-20. doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00288-20.


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2) is the cause of the respiratory infection known as COVID-19. From an immunopathological standpoint, coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV-2 induce increased levels of a variety of T-helper 1 (Th1) and inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, including interleukin-1 (IL-1), IL-6, CCL2 protein, and CXCL10 protein. In the absence of proven antiviral agents or an effective vaccine, substances with immunomodulatory activity may be able to inhibit inflammatory and Th1 cytokines and/or yield an anti-inflammatory and/or Th2 immune response to counteract COVID-19 symptoms and severity. This report briefly describes the following four unconventional but commercially accessible immunomodulatory agents that can be employed in clinical trials to evaluate their effectiveness at alleviating disease symptoms and severity: low-dose oral interferon alpha, microdose DNA, low-dose thimerosal, and phytocannabinoids.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; immunomodulatory agents; interferon alpha; phytocannabinoids; thimerosal.

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus
  • Cannabinoids / therapeutic use*
  • Coronavirus Infections / drug therapy*
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • DNA / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Immunomodulation*
  • Interferon-alpha / therapeutic use*
  • Pandemics
  • Phytochemicals / therapeutic use
  • Pneumonia, Viral / drug therapy*
  • Thimerosal / therapeutic use*


  • Cannabinoids
  • Cytokines
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Phytochemicals
  • Thimerosal
  • DNA

Supplementary concepts

  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 drug treatment
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2