To Fight Covid-19, Don’t Neglect Immunity and Inflammation

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To Fight Covid-19, Don’t Neglect Immunity and Inflammation

After seeing who is most likely to become infected and die, immunity and inflammation warrant further discussion and public attention.

While most people focus, as they should, on social distancing, face coverings, hand washing and even self-isolation to protect against the deadly coronavirus now ravaging the country, too few are paying serious attention to two other factors critically important to the risk of developing a Covid-19 infection and its potential severity.

Those factors are immunity, which should be boosted, and inflammation, which should be suppressed. I’ve touched on both in past columns, but now that months of pandemic-related restrictions have impacted the lives of millions, and after seeing who is most likely to become infected and die, immunity and inflammation warrant further discussion and public attention.

One fact is indisputable: Older people are especially vulnerable to this disease and its potentially fatal consequences. But “older” doesn’t necessarily mean “old.” While people over 80 are 184 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than those in their 20s, Dr. Nir Barzilai, scientific director of the American Federation for Aging Research, points out that vulnerability increases starting around age 55.

Immune defenses decline with age. That is a fundamental fact of biology. For example, with advancing age, natural killer cells, a major immunological weapon, become less effective at destroying virus-infected cells. But it doesn’t mean nothing can be done to slow or sometimes even reverse immunological decline, said Dr. Barzilai, who directs the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

At the same time, inflammation in tissues throughout the body increases with age, a fact that helps the coronavirus get into the body, bind to molecules in the nose and lungs, and wreak havoc, Janet Lord, director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham in England, explained in a webinar this month.

Fat tissue, for example, increases inflammation and renders overweight people more vulnerable to a Covid infection.

Get the full story at: nytimes.com

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