Lung Fibrosis after COVID-19: Treatment Prospects

Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2021 Aug 17;14(8):807. doi: 10.3390/ph14080807.


At the end of 2019, a highly contagious infection began its ominous conquest of the world. It was soon discovered that the disease was caused by a novel coronavirus designated as SARS-CoV-2, and the disease was thus abbreviated to COVID-19 (COVID). The global medical community has directed its efforts not only to find effective therapies against the deadly pathogen but also to combat the concomitant complications. Two of the most common respiratory manifestations of COVID are a significant reduction in the diffusing capacity of the lungs (DLCO) and the associated pulmonary interstitial damage. One year after moderate COVID, the incidence rate of impaired DLCO and persistent lung damage still exceeds 30%, and one-third of the patients have severe DLCO impairment and fibrotic lung damage. The persistent respiratory complications may cause substantial population morbidity, long-term disability, and even death due to the lung fibrosis progression. The incidence of COVID-induced pulmonary fibrosis caused by COVID can be estimated based on a 15-year observational study of lung pathology after SARS. Most SARS patients with fibrotic lung damage recovered within the first year and then remained healthy; however, in 20% of the cases, significant fibrosis progression was found in 5-10 years. Based on these data, the incidence rate of post-COVID lung fibrosis can be estimated at 2-6% after moderate illness. What is worse, there are reasons to believe that fibrosis may become one of the major long-term complications of COVID, even in asymptomatic individuals. Currently, despite the best efforts of the global medical community, there are no treatments for COVID-induced pulmonary fibrosis. In this review, we analyze the latest data from ongoing clinical trials aimed at treating post-COVID lung fibrosis and analyze the rationale for the current drug candidates. We discuss the use of antifibrotic therapy for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, the IN01 vaccine, glucocorticosteroids as well as the stromal vascular fraction for the treatment and rehabilitation of patients with COVID-associated pulmonary damage.

Keywords: COVID-19; deupirfenidone; nintedanib; pirfenidone; pulmonary fibrosis; rehabilitation; treamid.

Publication types

  • Review