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Infectious Diseases

Updated 19 October 2020

Could our ‘love hormone’ help with treating Covid-19?

A new study suggests that the love hormone oxytocin could help with treating Covid-19 infections by reducing inflammation.

  • Researchers are looking at oxytocin as a way to reduce inflammation
  • The 'love hormone' could help prevent the cytokine storm – an extreme reaction by the immune system
  • Healthcare professionals would administer the hormone intravenously in hospitalised Covid-19 patients

Researchers have conducted a study into oxytocin – commonly known as the love hormone – and if it could help treat Covid-19 infections.

Oxytocin is produced in the brain and can be secreted during the simple act of hugging – and is also commonly involved in sexual intimacy and childbirth.

Prior research has found that the hormone has great anti-inflammatory properties, and the study suggests that this may be able to prevent the “cytokine storm” in the early phase of the disease.

Aggravation of Covid-19 cases

The study, published in the American Physiological Society's Physiological Genomics, highlighted that T-cells and the cytokine storm are important factors leading to the aggravation of Covid-19 cases. 

The cytokine storm is an extreme reaction by the immune system where the body releases cytokines (proteins secreted by the immune system) as a defence, which then attack the body's own tissues as well.

In a news release, researchers state that a drug, carbetocin, has similar attributes to genes which are less likely to trigger cytokine storms in patients battling Covid-19.

The attributes of the drug are also similar to that of lopinavir – the anti-retroviral drug which was considered as a treatment for the disease.

READ | How the 'love hormone' affects your social interactions

Efficacy to be determined

In conclusion, the study proposed administering oxytocin intravenously as an accompanying treatment for Covid-19, but the safety and efficacy of the process are yet to be assessed.

In the battle to manage the hyperinflammatory response to the SARS-CoV-2, doctors are continuing to explore various avenues.

Earlier this year, Health24 reported that a nanotechnology approach was being considered to help patients battle the erratic cytokine storm.

READ | More insight into the cytokine storm caused by Covid-19 could lead to a treatment

The article detailed that when using the nanotechnology approach, researchers delivered multi-drug nanoparticle compounds to tissues of mice who were in hyperinflammatory states, such as sepsis (blood infection) or a state resembling the Covid-19 cytokine storm.

The research was still in its infancy at the time of the publication of the article, but researchers at that time reported that changes in important organs, like the lungs and kidneys, were observed a mere four hours following administering of treatment.

Image credit: Anna Shvet, Pexels