Part I. SARS-CoV-2 triggered ‘PANIC’ attack in severe COVID-19

Elliot M. Frohman, Nicole R. Villemarette-Pittman, Esther Melamed, Roberto Alejandro Cruz, Reid Longmuir, Thomas C. Varkey, Lawrence Steinman, Scott S. Zamvil, Teresa C. Frohman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has produced a world-wide collapse of social and economic infrastructure, as well as constrained our freedom of movement. This respiratory tract infection is nefarious in how it targets the most distal and highly vulnerable aspect of the human bronchopulmonary tree, specifically, the delicate yet irreplaceable alveoli that are responsible for the loading of oxygen upon red cell hemoglobin for use by all of the body's tissues. In most symptomatic individuals, the disease is a mild immune-mediated syndrome, with limited damage to the lung tissues. About 20% of those affected experience a disease course characterized by a cataclysmic set of immune activation responses that can culminate in the diffuse and irreversible obliteration of the distal alveoli, leading to a virtual collapse of the gas-exchange apparatus. Here, in Part I of a duology on the characterization and potential treatment for COVID-19, we define severe COVID-19 as a consequence of the ability of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) to trigger what we now designate for the first time as a ‘Prolific Activation of a Network-Immune-Inflammatory Crisis’, or ‘PANIC’ Attack, in the alveolar tree. In Part II we describe an immunotherapeutic hypothesis worthy of the organization of a randomized clinical trial in order to ascertain whether a repurposed, generic, inexpensive, and widely available agent is capable of abolishing ‘PANIC’; thereby preventing or mitigating severe COVID-19, with monumental ramifications for world health, and the global pandemic that continues to threaten it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116936
JournalJournal of the Neurological Sciences
StatePublished - Aug 15 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • ACE-2-r
  • Adaptive immunity
  • Alveoli
  • COVID-19
  • Complement
  • Cytokine
  • Gas exchange
  • Innate immunity
  • Methotrexate
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Spike protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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