Into the Eye of the Cytokine Storm

Simmons, Cameron
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The cytokine storm has captured the attention of the public and the scientific community alike, and while the general notion of an excessive or uncontrolled release of proinflammatory cytokines is well known, the concept of a cytokine storm and the biological consequences of cytokine overproduction are not clearly defined. Cytokine storms are associated with a wide variety of infectious and noninfectious diseases. The term was popularized largely in the context of avian H5N1 influenza virus infection, bringing the term into popular media. In this review, we focus on the cytokine storm in the context of virus infection, and we highlight how high-throughput genomic methods are revealing the importance of the kinetics of cytokine gene expression and the remarkable degree of redundancy and overlap in cytokine signaling. We also address evidence for and against the role of the cytokine storm in the pathology of clinical and infectious disease and discuss why it has been so difficult to use knowledge of the cytokine storm and immunomodulatory therapies to improve the clinical outcomes for patients with severe acute infections.