Doctors trying hard to keep alive patient showing 'cytokine storm'

Lim Chang-won Reporter() | Posted : March 20, 2020, 16:05 | Updated : March 20, 2020, 16:05

[Courtesy of Pohang City]

SEOUL -- Old people who have underlying chronic health problems are highly vulnerable to a new coronavirus, but it also kills young and healthy people suffering from an excessive immune response that ravages healthy lung tissue, leading to acute respiratory distress and multi-organ failure. Untreated, it is usually fatal.

At a hospital in the southeastern city of Daegu, doctors are struggling to cure a 26-year old patient who fell into a critical condition due to a "cytokine storm" syndrome, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

KCDC director Jeong Eun-kyeong told a regular briefing on Friday that the patient is currently in intensive care, receiving treatment with artificial respiration and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), which is an extracorporeal technique of providing prolonged cardiac and respiratory support to persons whose heart and lungs are unable to provide an adequate amount of gas exchange or perfusion to sustain life.

In the treatment of viral pneumonia caused by COVID-19, doctors use ECMO for patients with cardiac and respiratory failure. It works by removing blood from the person's body and artificially removing the carbon dioxide and oxygenating red blood cells.

Cytokines produced by cells interact with cells of the immune system to regulate the body's response to disease and infection, as well as mediate normal cellular processes in the body. They locate target immune cells and interact with receptors on the target immune cells. The interaction triggers or stimulates specific responses by the target cells. Overproduction or inappropriate production can result in disease.
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