Virologist and immunologist Mukesh Kumar from Georgia State University, Atlanta, has been studying how the body responds to infections, including the body’s response to SARS-CoV-2. It is known that the virus copies itself very quickly once it is able to infect a cell, which creates a lot of stress in a short span of time. The cell senses something foreign and its instant reaction is to kill itself so the foreign object doesn’t spread to other cells. But when many cells are doing this together, a lot of tissue can die – this gets dangerous for the tiny air sacs in lungs when tissues begin to break down. They can cause pneumonia and even starve the blood of oxygen. Dr Kumar adds, “Basically, most of your cells will die because of the cytokine storm. It eats away at the lung. They cannot recover. It seems to play a role in death in a large number of cases.” This starts in the lungs but soon starts to affect other organs too.
Once a Cytokine Storm damages the lungs, the oxygen fails to reach every part of the body, which can swell up arteries, thereby increasing the risk of a heart attack. There is also a risk of thrombosis or blood clotting, which is fatal.
As per a study carried out by Shintaro Hojyo et al., we have to take into account several pathological features like ARDS, coagulation and multiorgan dysfunction in fatal COVID cytokine storm episodes.