Tocilizumab for Severe COVID-19 Infection and Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Adults and Children

Life (Basel). 2023 Mar 27;13(4):889. doi: 10.3390/life13040889.


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) rapidly emerged as a global pandemic, placing imminent stress and burden on healthcare resources and workers worldwide. Many patients who present with a severe COVID-19 infection are at high risk of developing severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), leading to a vast number of patients requiring mechanical ventilation and a high mortality rate. Similar to Middle East respiratory syndrome, COVID-19 demonstrates an initial viral replication phase that manifests as a variety of symptoms typically flu-like in nature, followed by a profound inflammatory response leading to rapid production of cytokines and uncontrolled inflammation. There have also been many cases of COVID-19 in pediatric patients presenting with elevated inflammatory markers and multisystem involvement labeled as a multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) by the world health organization (WHO). The recent treatment of systemic inflammatory response to COVID-19 targets the secondary phase involving cytokine release syndrome. The detrimental effects of IL-6 can be profound and elevated levels are associated with a higher mortality rate and mechanical ventilation. Tocilizumab is an IL-6 inhibitor most widely investigated to target cytokine storm syndrome. Since June 2021, the FDA enacted an emergency use authorization for tocilizumab in the treatment of COVID-19. Several clinical trials have investigated tocilizumab combined with corticosteroids for treating severe ARDS associated with COVID-19. An increasing amount of evidence suggests that targeting the cytokine storm syndrome related to COVID-19 can lead to improved outcomes, especially in those patients requiring mechanical ventilation and with a critical illness. Additional studies are warranted to further look at the positive effects of tocilizumab in the COVID-19 population while additionally defining possible adverse effects.

Keywords: COVID-19; IL-6; acute respiratory distress syndrome; tocilizumab.

Publication types

  • Review

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.