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Anti-inflammatory therapy may ameliorate the clinical picture of COVID-19
  1. Haralampos M Moutsopoulos
  1. Medical Sciences/Immunology, Academy of Athens, Athens, Greece
  1. Correspondence to Professor Haralampos M Moutsopoulos, Medical Sciences/Immunology, Academy of Athens, Athens 115 27, Greece; hmoutsop{at}

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We present a 70-year-old woman who was diagnosed 5 years ago with cryopyrin-associated periodic syndrome on the basis of her clinical picture (episodes of fever, urticarial and maculopapular rash, myalgia, arthralgia and/or arthritis, especially after cold exposure), and genetic testing which confirmed an NLRP3 missense mutation. Since then she has been treated with anti-interleukin-1 subcutaneous therapy (initially on anakinra daily and subsequently on canakinumab 150 mg every 8 weeks). This treatment resulted in complete resolution of disease signs and symptoms. On 15 March 2020 she received her last canakinumab injection. Ten days later she experienced low-grade fever (37.5ºC) and malaise. Her friend, with whom she was exercising, was diagnosed with COVID-19. The following day the patient was tested for SARS-COV-2 and she was found positive. At that time her white cell counts were 4,28x109/L (polymorphonuclear leucocytes 48%, lymphocytes 32%) and serum C-reactive protein was 9 mg/dL (normal value (nv) <5 mg/dL). In a couple of days her symptoms resolved and repeated testing for SARS-COV-2, 12 days later, was negative.

Based on the patient’s age and immunomodulation due to the interleukin-1 blockade, she would be classified as high risk for developing a serious COVID-19 infection. However, the patient’s clinical picture was very mild.

The question which arises from this and other recently presented cases of patients with autoimmune disorders treated with biological or targeted disease-modifying agents1 2 is, whether cytokine blockade may protect patients for a cytokine storm and thus ameliorate the gravity of the clinical picture of their COVID-19 infection.

Definitive conclusions cannot be drawn from a limited number of cases; however, the presentation of this case intends to fuel a fruitful discussion on this issue.



  • Handling editor Josef S Smolen

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Patient consent for publication Obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.