Anti-IL-6 versus anti-IL-6R Blocking Antibodies to Treat Acute Ebola Infection in BALB/c Mice with Potential Implications for Treating Patients Presenting with COVID-19

Rubsamen, Reid M.; Burkholz, Scott; Massey, Christopher; Brasel, Trevor; Hodge, Tom; Wang, Lu; Herst, Charles; Carback, Richard; Harris, Paul Emerson

Cytokine release syndrome (CRS) is known to be a factor in morbidity and mortality associated with acute viral infections including those caused by filoviruses and coronaviruses. IL-6 has been implicated as a cytokine negatively associated with survival after filovirus infection. However, IL-6 has also been shown to be an important mediator of innate immunity, important for the host response to an acute viral infection. Clinical studies are now being conducted by various researchers to evaluate the possible role of IL-6 blockers to improve outcomes in critically ill patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Most of these studies involve the use of anti-IL-6R monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). We present data showing that direct neutralization of IL-6 with an anti-IL-6 mAb in a BALB/c Ebolavirus (EBOV) challenge model produced a statistically significant improvement in outcome compared with controls when administered within the first 24 hours of challenge and repeated every 72 hours. A similar effect was seen in mice treated with the same dose of anti-IL-6R mAb when the treatment was delayed 48 hrs post-challenge. These data suggest that direct neutralization of IL-6, early during the course of infection, may provide additional clinical benefits to IL-6 receptor blockade alone during treatment of patients with virus-induced CRS. These results may have implications for selecting and managing IL-6 blockade therapy for patients with COVID-19.


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June 24, 2020