Effects of cytokine blocking agents on hospital mortality in patients admitted to ICU with acute respiratory distress syndrome by SARS-CoV-2 infection: retrospective cohort study


Background: The use of cytokine-blocking agents has been proposed to modulate the inflammatory response in patients with COVID-19. Tocilizumab and anakinra were included in the local protocol as an optional treatment in critically ill patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) by SARS-CoV-2 infection. This cohort study evaluated the effects of therapy with cytokine blocking agents on in-hospital mortality in COVID-19 patients requiring mechanical ventilation and admitted to intensive care unit.
Methods: The association between therapy with tocilizumab or anakinra and in-hospital mortality was assessed in consecutive adult COVID-19 patients admitted to our ICU with moderate to severe ARDS. The association was evaluated by comparing patients who received to those who did not receive tocilizumab or anakinra and by using different multivariable Cox models adjusted for variables related to poor outcome, for the propensity to be treated with tocilizumab or anakinra and after patient matching.
Results: Sixty-six patients who received immunotherapy (49 tocilizumab, 17 anakinra) and 28 patients who did not receive immunotherapy were included. The in-hospital crude mortality was 30,3% in treated patients and 50% in nontreated (OR 0.77, 95% CI 0.56-1.05, p=0.069). The adjusted Cox model showed an association between therapy with immunotherapy and in-hospital mortality (HR 0.40, 95% CI 0.19-0.83, p=0.015). This protective effect was further confirmed in the analysis adjusted for propensity score, in the propensity-matched cohort and in the cohort of patients with invasive mechanical ventilation within 2 hours after ICU admission.
Conclusions: Although important limitations, our study showed that cytokine-blocking agents seem to be safe and to improve survival in COVID-19 patients admitted to ICU with ARDS and the need for mechanical ventilation.


*Modena Covid-19 Working Group (MoCo19): 
Intensive Care Unit: Massimo Girardis, Alberto Andreotti, Emanuela Biagioni, Filippo Bondi, Stefano Busani, Giovanni Chierego, Marzia Scotti, Lucia Serio, Annamaria Ghirardini, Marco Sita, Stefano De Julis, Lara Donno, Lorenzo Dall’Ara, Fabrizio Di Salvo, Carlotta Farinelli, Laura Rinaldi, Ilaria Cavazzuti, Andrea Ghidoni, Antonio Buono, Elena Ferrari, Daniela Iseppi, Anna Maria Ardito, Irene Coloretti, Sophie Venturelli, Elena Munari, Martina Tosi, Erika Roat, Ilenia Gatto, Marco Sarti.
Immuno-Lab: Andrea Cossarizza, Caterina Bellinazzi, Rebecca Borella, Sara De Biasi, Anna De Gaetano, Lucia Fidanza, Lara Gibellini, Anna Iannone, Domenico Lo Tartaro, Marco Mattioli, Milena Nasi, Annamaria Paolini, Marcello Pinti. 
Infectious Disease Unit: Cristina Mussini, Giovanni Guaraldi, Marianna Meschiari, Alessandro Cozzi-Lepri, Jovana Milic, Marianna Menozzi, Erica Franceschini, Gianluca Cuomo, Gabriella Orlando, Vanni Borghi, Antonella Santoro, Margherita Di Gaetano, Cinzia Puzzolante, Federica Carli, Andrea Bedini, Luca Corradi. Respiratory Diseases Unit: Enrico Clini, Roberto Tonelli, Riccardo Fantini, Ivana Castaniere, Luca Tabbì, Giulia Bruzzi, Chiara Nani, Fabiana Trentacosti, Pierluigi Donatelli, Maria Rosaria Pellegrino, Linda Manicardi, Antonio Moretti, Morgana Vermi, Caterina Cerbone.
Virology and Molecular Microbiology Unit: Monica Pecorari, William Gennari, Antonella Grottola, Giulia Fregni Serpini.



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Original Research Articles
COVID-19, acute respiratory distress syndrome, tocilizumab, anakinra, intensive care unit, mechanical ventilation
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How to Cite
Coloretti, I., Busani, S., Biagioni, E., Venturelli, S., Munari, E., Sita, M., Dall’Ara, L., Tosi, M., Clini, E., Tonelli, R., Fantini, R., Mussini, C., Meschiari, M., Guaraldi, G., Cossarizza, A., Alfano, G., Girardis, M., & (MoCo19)M. C.-1. W. G. (2021). Effects of cytokine blocking agents on hospital mortality in patients admitted to ICU with acute respiratory distress syndrome by SARS-CoV-2 infection: retrospective cohort study . Multidisciplinary Respiratory Medicine, 16. https://doi.org/10.4081/mrm.2021.737