The target group of this therapy is elderly patients who have been diagnosed with the virus at an early stage.

What is cytokine therapy? Karnataka to try new treatment for COVID-19File Image
Coronavirus Health Thursday, May 21, 2020 - 20:03

In order to limit the number of COVID-19 related mortalities in Karnataka, authorities are planning to try cytokine therapy. This comes after the government was one of the first in the country to introduce convalescent plasma therapy.

Bengaluru-headquartered HCG Cancer Hospital has received grant from Directorate General of Healthcare Services (DGHS), Government of India under the provisions of New Drugs and Clinical Trial Rules, 2019 to begin trial for cytokine therapy. Earlier, the hospital received permission for plasma therapy as well.

Cytokine therapy is currently undergoing the first phase of safety trials and may be introduced for COVID-19 cure within the next month if all subsequent stages of tests show encouraging results.

The target group of this therapy is elderly patients who have been diagnosed with the virus at an early stage. Incidentally 26 out of the 41 deaths in the state are of patients in the 60+ age group.

Speaking with TNM, Dr Gururaj, director of iCREST the collaborative initiative of International Stemcell Services and HCG Hospitals said, “We are basically trying to mimic an efficient immune response among older patients where often there is a lag time before the response kicks in and it allows the virus to multiply within the body and take over the body. Eventually it results in an overactive immune system at the end stage. And for that the body needs to mount a massive response and that response kind of gets out of hand itself. So then we see massive inflammation and pneumonia and other conditions.”

He explained the treatment involves injecting cytokines intramuscularly which in turn will modulate the immune system. Cytokines are proteins secreted by the immune system in response to any infection.

“We are trying to target the disease at the early stage. We don't want a patient to get to the point where the body has to fight the big challenge. So the idea is to treat patients early on when they have just contracted the virus showing mild symptoms and has not progressed to any respiratory distress. At that time we propose to augment the immune system by bridging the gap between the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. In other words we can call it immune balancing, essentially trying to get the right kind of immune response at the right time,” he added.

He said the concept of this therapy has originated from HCG’s efforts in cancer cure.

“So at this point at phase 1 of safety trials. We are trying out therapy with healthy persons. We will carry on with this for at least 15 days and everything works out fine then we will present to the regulators and if they are okay with it, then they will give us permission for clinical trials,” he said.