Document Type


Publication Date



This article is the author's final published version in Evolution, Medicine and Public Health, Volume 9, Issue 1, 2021, Pages 83-92.

The published version is available at

Copyright © 2021 The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Foundation for Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Since the identification of severe illness caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the role of the host immune system in causing disease has attracted widespread attention, along with intense interest in medical interventions that target the host immune response. A wide variety of agents have been proposed to treat a cytokine storm in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but so far, only one class of medications, corticosteroids, has proved useful. In recent decades, experimental therapies for cytokine storms have been tried and mostly failed to help patients with severe sepsis and other infections. We summarize this history in order to frame expectations for novel interventions in COVID-19 and to bring an evolutionary medicine perspective to the concept of cytokine storms and their treatment.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.