SARS-CoV-2 infection as a model to study the effect of cinnamaldehyde as adjuvant therapy for viral pneumonia

J Inflamm (Lond). 2023 Nov 20;20(1):40. doi: 10.1186/s12950-023-00364-9.


Background: The recent pandemic outbursts, due to SARS-CoV-2, have highlighted once more the central role of the inflammatory process in the propagation of viral infection. The main consequence of COVID-19 is the induction of a diffuse pro-inflammatory state, also defined as a cytokine storm, which affects different organs, but mostly the lungs. We aimed to prove the efficacy of cinnamaldehyde, the active compound of cinnamon, as an anti-inflammatory compound, able to reduce SARS-CoV-2 induced cytokine storm.

Results: We enrolled 53 COVID-19 patients hospitalized for respiratory failure. The cohort was composed by 39 males and 13 females, aged 65.0 ± 9.8 years. We reported that COVID-19 patients have significantly higher IL-1β and IL-6 plasma levels compared to non-COVID-19 pneumonia patients. In addition, human mononuclear cells (PBMCs) isolated from SARS-CoV-2 infected patients are significantly more prone to release pro-inflammatory cytokines upon stimuli. We demonstrated, using in vitro cell models, that macrophages are responsible for mediating the pro-inflammatory cytokine storm while lung cells support SARS-CoV-2 replication upon viral infection. In this context, cinnamaldehyde administration significantly reduces SARS-CoV-2-related inflammation by inhibiting NLRP3 mediated IL-1β release in both PBMCs and THP-1 macrophages, as well as viral replication in CaLu-3 epithelial cells. Lastly, aerosol-administered cinnamaldehyde was able to significantly reduce IL-1β release in an in vivo lung-inflammatory model.

Conclusion: The obtained results suggest the possible use of cinnamaldehyde as a co-adjuvant preventive treatment for COVID-19 disease together with vaccination, but also as a promising dietary supplement to reduce, more broadly, viral induced inflammation.

Keywords: COVID-19; Cinnamaldehyde; IL-1β; IL-6; Inflammation; SARS-CoV-2; Viral replication.