cytokine storm

noun

plural cytokine storms
: the uncontrolled, sometimes life-threatening, excessive release of cytokines (such as chemokines, interferons, or interleukins) in the body from an aggressive, pro-inflammatory immune response resulting from overreaction of the immune system (as to an infectious disease or immunotherapy)
Cytokines are messengers that normally help the body's immune system. But in a cytokine storm far too many are released, and they wind up killing both healthy and diseased cells.Mark Johnson
… a cytokine storm is an SOS signal that causes the immune system to launch its entire arsenal of weapons all at once. This last-ditch, kamikaze attack hurts the virus. But it leaves behind tons of collateral damage. Blood vessels take the brunt of it.Michaeleen Doucleff
see also cytokine storm syndrome

Examples of cytokine storm in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web While humans respond to viruses by ramping up immune defense mechanisms, sometimes initiating an inflammatory cytokine storm which can harm our own organs, bats take the opposite approach. Juergen Eckhardt, Forbes, 22 Feb. 2024 In very bad cases of heat illness, the gut can lose its integrity, allowing deadly bacteria to leach into the bloodstream, or the heat can set off a frenzy of inflammation known as a cytokine storm. Dhruv Khullar, The New Yorker, 25 Aug. 2023 Reported rates vary, but cytokine storms have since the earliest days of the pandemic been considered a dangerous possibility in severe COVID-19 cases. IEEE Spectrum, 3 June 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cytokine storm.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1992, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of cytokine storm was in 1992

Dictionary Entries Near cytokine storm

Cite this Entry

“Cytokine storm.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cytokine%20storm. Accessed 19 Jun. 2024.

Medical Definition

cytokine storm

noun
: the uncontrolled, sometimes life-threatening, excessive release of cytokines (as chemokines, interferons, or interleukins) in the body from an aggressive, pro-inflammatory immune response resulting from overreaction of the immune system (as to an infectious disease or immunotherapy)
Glucocorticoids have been used widely for cytokine storm and respiratory failure in patients with Covid-19; however, there is concern that they may prolong viral shedding and lead to secondary infections.David A. Berlin et al., The New England Journal of Medicine
The dead had heavier loads of the virus in more tissues and showed clearer signs of a "cytokine storm"—a lethal overreaction of the immune system.Debora MacKenzie, New Scientist
see also cytokine storm syndrome
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