An emergent coronavirus, now named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus
2 (SARS-CoV-2), was declared a pandemic on the 22nd March 2020. It has since caused unprecedented
pressures on the healthcare systems worldwide, leading to over five million cases and over
three hundred thousand deaths. This has resulted in a global struggle to fight this disease, without
any known cure or any definite treatment and with no vaccine. This challenge is exemplified by
many with COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) rapidly deteriorating to critical illness, developing
respiratory failure, multi-organ dysfunction or failure, and septic shock. This rapid deterioration
is thought to be due to the activation of the cytokine storm.
The cytokine storm is characterised by mass cytokine and chemokine release, leading to widespread
multi-organ damage. One of these such cytokines that plays a role in the cytokine storm is
Interleukin (IL-) 6. Raised levels of IL-6 in many diseases have been observed to both correlate
with disease severity and predict poor outcomes. Early studies began to show high levels of IL-6 in
those with severe and critical COVID-19, and there is ongoing research into immune modulators to
block IL-6, in the hope of halting disease progression and improving the chance of recovery. This
article will explore the role that IL-6 plays in COVID-19 and whether an IL-6 blockade can prevent
poor outcomes and reduce mortality.