IL-6 related insight from COVID research

Some layman-understandable news about the coronavirus, worth reading: a research paper shows the role of interleukins in determining the depth (gravity, danger) of illness from the coronavirus for an individual.

High existing pre-infection levels of IL-6 (interleukin six) predict high probability of getting severe form of the COVID disease.

Normal course of immune reaction

When a human body encounters pathogens (viruses), the reaction consists roughly of four stages:

  • identification of an attack
  • alerting the body via signaling
  • mechanisms that enable the body to attack a pathogen, by activating the apppropriate repertoire of defense (might be T-cells, antibodies)
  • after the pathogen is no longer present in dangerous levels, the immune system shall cease to attack – otherwise the prolonged attack could be harmful to the body itself

For example; when we get a common flu, the stuff running out of our noses is a combination of the pathogen and defense cels from the battlefield. This is part of clearance: our body is getting rid of the attacker by debilitating the structures of the attacking cells (or hindering the capability of the virus to spread further).

With current coronavirus pandemic, what is different is that some people get very ill, once they have caught the coronavirus. This aspect (along with possibly the fact that our immune system doesn’t develop a proper “memory”, ie. immunity to the new coronavirus) is what makes the new virus dangerous.

Interleukins mediate cellular signaling. They are small proteins, present in circulation (blood). Interleukins are not capable of crossing inside into a cell, but instead act through the cell surface receptors. Elevated levels of IL-6 were associated with severe form of COVID illness.

Seems that quite simply said, IL-6 is somehow the “strength of alarm clock” that the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus sends the body. Higher levels of IL-6 make a severe counterattack from body, which is presented as the severe form of COVID illness.

Signaling means that a cell’s nucleus receives information from the outside world. This information determines partially how the cell changes its course of action.

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