Interleukin-6 as potential mediator of long-term neuropsychiatric symptoms of COVID-19.
The majority of COVID-19 survivors experience long-term neuropsychiatric symptoms such as fatigue, sleeping difficulties, depression and anxiety. We propose that neuroimmune cross-talk via inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-6 (IL-6) could underpin these long-term COVID-19 symptoms. This hypothesis is supported by several lines of research, including population-based cohort and genetic Mendelian Randomisation studies suggesting that inflammation is associated with fatigue and sleeping difficulties, and that IL-6 could represent a possible causal driver for these symptoms. Immune activation following COVID-19 can disrupt T helper 17 (TH17) and regulatory T (Treg) cell responses, affect central learning and emotional processes, and lead to a vicious cycle of inflammation and mitochondrial dysfunction that amplifies the inflammatory process and results in immuno-metabolic constraints on neuronal energy metabolism, with fatigue being the ultimate result. Increased cytokine activity drives this process and could be targeted to interrupt it. Therefore, whether persistent IL-6 dysregulation contributes to COVID-19-related long-term fatigue, sleeping difficulties, depression, and anxiety, and whether targeting IL-6 pathways could be helpful for treatment and prevention of long COVID are important questions that require investigation. This line of research could inform new approaches for treatment and prevention of long-term neuropsychiatric symptoms of COVID-19. Effective treatment and prevention of this condition could also help to stem the anticipated rise in depression and other mental illnesses ensuing this pandemic.
Medical Research Council (MR/S037675/1)
Medical Research Council (MC_PC_17213)
MQ: Transforming Mental Health (MQDS17\40)