Objective: Approximately 5% of patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) develop a life-threatening pneumonia that often occurs in the setting of increased inflammation or "cytokine storm". Anti-cytokine treatments are being evaluated but optimal patient selection remains unclear, and the aim of our study is to address this point.
Methods: Between February 29 to April 6, 2020, 111 consecutive hospitalized patients with COVID-19 pneumonia were evaluated in a single centre retrospective study. Patients were divided in two groups: 42 severe cases (TOCI) with adverse prognostic features including raised CRP and IL-6 levels, who underwent anti-cytokine treatments, mostly tocilizumab, and 69 standard of care patients (SOC).
Results: In the TOCI group, all received anti-viral therapy and 40% also received glucocorticoids. In TOCI, 62% of cases were ventilated and there were 3 deaths (17.8 ± 10.6 days, mean follow up) with 7/26 cases remaining on ventilators, without improvement, and 17/26 developed bacterial superinfection. One fatality occurred in the 15 TOCI cases treated on noninvasive ventilation and 1 serious bacterial superinfection. Of the 69 cases in SOC, there was no fatalities and no bacterial complications. The TOCI group had higher baseline CRP and IL-6 elevations (p < 0.0001 for both) and higher neutrophils and lower lymphocyte levels (p = 0.04 and p = 0.001, respectively) with the TOCI ventilated patients having higher markers than non-ventilated TOCI patients.
Conclusion: Higher inflammatory markers, more infections and worse outcomes characterized ventilated TOCI cases compared to ward based TOCI. Despite the confounding factors, this suggests that therapy time in anti-cytokine randomized trials will be key.
Keywords: COVID-19; coronavirus; cytokine; intensive care; tocilizumab.
© 2020 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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