Annals of Thoracic Medicine Official publication of the Saudi Thoracic Society, affiliated to King Saud University
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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 15  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 199-207

Low-dose radiation therapy for coronavirus disease-2019 pneumonia: Is it time to look beyond apprehensions?

Radiation Biology and Health Sciences Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Badri Narain Pandey
Radiation Biology and Health Sciences Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai - 400 085, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/atm.ATM_433_20

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Coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) has become a global health crisis. Mortality associated with COVID-19 is characterized mainly by acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), sepsis, pneumonia, and respiratory failure. The pathogenesis of the disease is known to be associated with pro-inflammatory processes after virus infection. Hence, various therapeutic strategies are being developed to control the inflammation and cytokine storm in COVID-19 patients. Recently, low-dose radiation therapy (LDRT) has been suggested for the treatment of pneumonia/ADRS in COVID-19 patients through irradiation of lungs by gamma/X-ray. In this direction, a few clinical trials have also been initiated. However, a few recent publications have raised some concerns regarding LDRT, especially about possibilities of activation/aggressiveness of virus (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 in case of COVID-19), lung injury and risk of second cancer after low-dose therapy. The present manuscript is an attempt to analyze these apprehensions based on cited references and other available literature, including some from our laboratory. At this point, LDRT may be not the first line of therapy. However, based on existing anti-inflammatory evidence of LDRT, it needs encouragement as an adjuvant therapy and for more multi-centric clinical trials. In addition, it would be worth combining LDRT with other anti-inflammatory therapies, which would open avenues for multi-modal therapy of pneumonia/ARDS in COVID-19 patients. The mode of irradiation (local lung irradiation or whole-body irradiation) and the window period after infection of the virus, need to be optimized using suitable animal studies for effective clinical outcomes of LDRT. However, considering ample evidence, it is time to look beyond the apprehensions if a low dose of radiation could be exploited for better management of COVID-19 patients.

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