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Cytokine Storms: Systemic Disasters of Infectious Diseases

Nazinitsky, Allison BS; Rosenthal, Kenneth S. PhD

Infectious Diseases in Clinical Practice: May 2010 - Volume 18 - Issue 3 - p 188-192
doi: 10.1097/IPC.0b013e3181d2ee41
Immunology/Microbiology for ID

The flood of cytokine production that occurs in response to certain infections is termed cytokine storm. Like the normal responses to a local infection, a cytokine storm is initiated not only by macrophages, dendritic cell and T-cell responses to pathogen-associated molecular patterns in bacterial and fungal cell walls, and microbial DNA and RNA but also by superantigen toxins and systemic spread of microbes. Excessive production of tumor necrosis factor α, interleukin 1, and other cytokines at the infection site or during sepsis can overpower the natural regulators and cause systemic disruption of physiologic function, shock, and possibly death.

From the Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacology, Rootstown, OH.

Reprints: Kenneth S. Rosenthal, PhD, Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, 4209 SR 44, Rootstown, OH 44272. E-mail:

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.