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What is a cytokine storm? And why is its prevention key to treating Covid-19? – Scroll.in

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The killer is not the virus but the immune response.

The current pandemic is unique not just because it is caused by a new virus that puts everyone at risk, but also because the range of innate immune responses is diverse and unpredictable. In some it is strong enough to kill. In others, it is relatively mild.

My research relates to innate immunity. Innate immunity is a person’s inborn defense against pathogens that instruct the body’s adaptive immune system to produce antibodies against viruses. Those antibody responses can be later used for developing vaccination approaches. Working in the lab of Nobel laureate Bruce Beutler, I co-authored the paper that explained how the cells that make up the body’s innate immune system recognise pathogens, and how overreacting to them in general could be detrimental to the host. This is especially true in the Covid-19 patients who are overreacting to the virus.

A game of chess

I study inflammatory response and cell death, which are two principal components of the innate response. White blood cells called macrophages use a set of sensors to recognise the pathogen and produce proteins called cytokines, which trigger inflammation…



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