The World Health Organization (WHO) says Africa may have passed its Covid-19 peak. FILE PHOTO (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Inflammation a common feature in severe Covid-19 cases

CAPE TOWN- The severity of Covid-19 can vary from person to person. In some cases people are asymptomatic and for others, the virus has proven to be life-threatening. 

While there are various factors that may contribute to how severely people are affected by Covid-19 – including access to healthcare and occupational exposure – researchers are beginning to understand why the presence of inflammation could explain why many in at-risk groups develop severe symptoms. 

When the body’s immune system responds to a virus, various different types of antibodies are produced to fight the infection. Sometimes, this process can cause inflammation.

In an article first published on The Conversation, Sheena Cruickshank Professor in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Manchester, said that she has seen the risks associated with diabetes and obesity and how these comorbidities are all related to the immune system functioning irregularly when confronted by the virus.

“A common feature for many patients that get severe Covid-19 is serious lung damage caused by an overly vigorous immune response. This is characterised by the creation of lots of inflammatory products called cytokines – the so-called cytokine storm,” said Cruickshank.


A study conducted in the United Kingdom found that 73 percent of Covid-19 patients in intensive care were either overweight or obese. When a person is overweight excess tissue has a direct impact on areas including respiratory function, inflammation, blood and immunity – which are crucial in the fight against Covid-19.

Cruickshank said that for elderly individuals, their immune system could be poorly equipped to fight off an infection, and the virus could lead to a damaging immune response. 

In some cases, Covid-19 could lead to inflammageing, which is a condition where elevated levels of blood inflammatory markers can carry high susceptibility to chronic morbidity, disability, frailty, and premature death.


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