Recruiting the innate immune system with GM-CSF to fight viral diseases, including West Nile Virus encephalitis and COVID-19

F1000Res. 2020 May 11;9:345. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.23729.1. eCollection 2020.


As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic grows throughout the world, it is imperative that all approaches to ameliorating its effects be investigated, including repurposing drugs that show promise in other diseases. We have been investigating an approach to multiple disorders that involves recruiting the innate immune system to aid the body's healing and regenerative mechanism(s). In the case of West Nile Virus encephalitis and potentially COVID-19, the proposed intervention to stimulate the innate immune system may give the adaptive immune response the necessary time to develop, finish clearing the virus, and provide future immunity. Furthermore, we have found that GM-CSF-induced recruitment of the innate immune system is also able to reverse brain pathology, neuroinflammation and cognitive deficits in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease and Down syndrome, as well as improving cognition in normal aging and in human patients with cognitive deficits due to chemotherapy, both of which exhibit neuroinflammation. Others have shown that GM-CSF is an effective treatment for both bacterial and viral pneumonias, and their associated inflammation, in animals and that it has successfully treated pneumonia-associated Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome in humans. These and other data strongly suggest that GM-CSF may be an effective treatment for many viral infections, including COVID-19.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s Disease; COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; West Nile Virus; acute respiratory distress syndrome; granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor; inflammation; neuroinflammation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / immunology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / therapy
  • Encephalitis / therapy
  • Encephalitis / virology
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor / immunology*
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Immune System*
  • Mice
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / immunology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / therapy
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • West Nile Fever / immunology*
  • West Nile Fever / therapy


  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor