How to prevent a cytokine storm


This article was previously published on May 11, 2020 and has been updated with new information.

Part of what makes COVID-19 such a dangerous disease in severe cases is because it can trigger a cytokine storm reaction that leads to sepsis, organ failure and death.

I have written a number of articles in which I discuss various natural supplements that are known to inactivate viruses, soothe inflammation and regulate the inflammatory process. Examples include vitamin C, melatonin and licorice root. You can find them all on my Coronavirus Resource page.

Blocking the cytokine storm is crucial

Recently, a newspaper1 “COVID-19: The Potential of Natural Astaxanthin Derived from Microalgae as an Auxiliary Supplement in Cytokine Storm Mitigation,” published April 21, 2020, on the SSRN Research Library website, addresses the use of astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant supplement derived from microalgae. According to the authors:

“There is rationale, preclinical evidence of efficacy and evidence of safety from long-term use for other indications to justify the possible inclusion of natural astaxanthin as an adjunct in combination with primary antiviral therapy of great benefit to patients with COVID-19 improving their health and reducing time recovery …

Clinically, natural astaxanthin has shown various benefits with excellent safety and has been reported to block oxidative DNA damage, decreased C-reactive protein (CRP) and other biomarkers of inflammation. Previous studies have reported that natural astaxanthin has positive effects on alleviating cytokine storm, acute lung injury, acute respiratory syndrome, etc.

Current evidence-based perceptions suggest that SARS-CoV-2 elicits a potentially enhanced inflammatory response to sequential consequences ALI [acute lung injury], ARDS [acute respiratory distress syndrome] life-threatening dire consequence of potential septic shock with increased expression of inflammation-related genes along with inevitable secondary infections, instead of increased viral load…

Reducing cytokine storm by targeting key steps in the process can yield improved results… Shi et al. proposed a two-phase approach to the potential treatment of patients with COVID-19: the first protective phase based on immune defense for non-severe cases of COVID-19 and the second, harmful phase caused by inflammation for severe patients with COVID-19.

Zhang et al. presented a critical review… stating that blocking a cytokine storm at the right time followed by initiating anti-inflammatory therapy is very critical for reducing the death rate. … A range of antioxidants as supplements will offer a window of rapid patient recovery by reducing side effects after treatment. “

Rationale for the use of astaxanthin

The paper on astaxanthin cites research showing that astaxanthin “may play an important role in regulating immunity and the etiology of disease” due to its multiple activity. Not only is it a powerful antioxidant, but it is also an immune booster, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotector, immunomodulator, antibacterial and anti-apoptotic. As for the antioxidant power, it is considered to be the strongest available. As stated in the paper on astaxanthin:2

“The antioxidant activity of astaxanthin is reported to far exceed existing antioxidants with a ROS capture capacity of 6000 times greater than vitamin C, 800 times greater than coenzyme Q10, 550 times greater than vitamin E, 200 times greater than polyphenols, 150 times greater than anthocyanins and 75 times more than α-lipoic acid. “

Importantly, as explained in this paper, astaxanthin has a very unique molecular structure that allows it to penetrate the bilayer cell membrane. The ability to quench reactive oxygen species (ROS) and free radicals in the inner and outer layers of the cell membrane provides superior protection against oxidative stress compared to other antioxidants.

Vitamin E and beta-carotene, for example, act only on the inside of the membrane, and vitamin C only on the outside.3 What’s more:

“The antioxidant effect of astaxanthin interacts with its anti-inflammatory action by enhancing the regulation of antioxidant enzymes (e.g. superoxide dismutase) and reducing prooxidative enzymes (e.g. nitric oxide synthesis).

Astaxanthin is also known to protect pancreatic beta cells by reducing oxidative stress and sugar toxicity, improving adiponectin and HDL levels, and improving blood flow and circulation. the authors state, adding:

Growing evidence shows that cytokine dysregulation in acute inflammation is the most important step in mediating, intensifying and maintaining the process of sepsis or BUT …

Excessive release of various proinflammatory cytokines, mainly including TNF-α, IL-6, IL-1β, IL-12 and IL-8, rapidly initiates a systemic inflammatory response leading to simulation of an adaptive immune response and cytokine storm resulting in acute cell injury to form sepsis or BUT.

These observations, together with the currently accumulated evidence related to COVID-19, strongly suggest that the inflammatory process is associated with ARDS associated with ARDS and sepsis.

This guarantees that effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory treatments must be strategically applied to treat patients with COVID-19 …

Anti-inflammatory / antioxidant candidates for intervening in cytokine overproduction, including IL6 and TNF-α, may be a promising strategy for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19-related ALS and ARDS-related sepsis. “

According to the authors, astaxanthin could be uniquely suitable for this task. Astaxanthin, “with its proven anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity backed by numerous preclinical and human trials and with its outstanding safety profile, may be one of the most promising candidates for a trial against COVID-19,” they say.

How astaxanthin can inhibit SARS-CoV-2 damage

The authors believe that astaxanthin may help reduce the impact of SARS-CoV-2 infection:4

Inhibition of nuclear factor kappa-B (NF-κB), a transcription signaling pathway involved in the innate immune response. This reduces the macrophage phenotype ratio M1 / ​​M2, which is an important part of lowering inflammatory cytokine levels.

NF-κB is also a mediator of inflammation in acute lung injury, and according to the authors, “Previous studies have reported that the anti-inflammatory effect [astaxanthin] includes suppression of NFkB activation in ARDS “

Inhibition of IL6 production, a key culprit for sepsis, acute lung injury, and ARDS

Inhibition of TNF-alpha production, which reduces the levels of several proinflammatory cytokines

Inhibition of apoptosis (cell death) in alveolar epithelial cells

Increase in sirtuin 1 (SIRT1), which according to the authors “can play a vital role in the proper regulation of SIRT1 to alleviate injury and pneumonia” in acute lung injury caused by sepsis

Inhibition of the Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR 4) signaling pathway, which reduces the proinflammatory response. As the authors noted, “TLRs are a group of receptors for pattern recognition that play a key role in the innate immune system.”

Reduction of alveolar wall swelling

Significant inhibition of bronchial alveolar lavage fluid in acute lung injury and suppression of pulmonary edema

Reduction of the fall of the pulmonary alveoli in the lung tissue

Modulating the immune response by stimulating lymphocyte proliferation (a type of white blood cell involved in fighting infections), increasing the cytotoxicity of natural killer cells and increasing the number of T cells and B cells (the two main components of your adaptive immune response)

Inflammatory receptor 3 (NLRP3) that regulates downward – which is part of your innate immune response during a lung infection – and its downstream apoptosis and inflammatory response

Reduction of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation

The following chart illustrates and summarizes the beneficial effects of astaxanthin and how it may help calm the response to the cytokine storm responsible for sepsis, acute lung injury, ARDS, and multiorgan disorders commonly seen in patients with severe COVID-19 disease. According to the authors:

“Together, we speculate that the implications of astaxanthin as an additional countermeasure in the treatment of COVID-19 may have a dual purpose both as an antioxidant and as an anti-inflammatory compound with a beneficial outcome of reduced mortality and rapid recovery …”

Astaxanthin, one of the most powerful natural antioxidants

In short, astaxanthin provides many important frameworks for improving COVID-19, including regulating the immune response and improving cellular and humoral immune responses, as well as protecting against oxidative damage and inflammation.

In addition to being potentially beneficial against COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases, astaxanthin has been shown to provide a wide range of health benefits to the entire system, protect against radiation, and promote skin, eye, brain, and heart health. To learn more about this powerful antioxidant, see “Astaxanthin Research Shows Significant Benefits for the Whole Body.”


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