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Selenium and viral infection: are there lessons for COVID-19?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Catherine Meplan



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Se is a micronutrient essential for human health. Sub-optimal Se status is common, occurring in a significant proportion of the population across the world including parts of Europe and China. Human and animal studies have shown that Se status is a key determinant of the host response to viral infections. In this review, we address the question whether Se intake is a factor in determining the severity of response to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Emphasis is placed on epidemiological and animal studies which suggest that Se affects host response to RNA viruses and on the molecular mechanisms by which Se and selenoproteins modulate the inter-linked redox homeostasis, stress response and inflammatory response. Together these studies indicate that Se status is an important factor in determining the host response to viral infections. Therefore, we conclude that Se status is likely to influence human response to the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection and that Se status is one (of several) risk factors which may impact on the outcome of SARS-CoV-2 infection, particularly in populations where Se intake is sub-optimal or low. We suggest the use of appropriate markers to assess the Se status of COVID-19 patients and possible supplementation may be beneficial in limiting the severity of symptoms, especially in countries where Se status is regarded as sub-optimal.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bermano G, Meplan C, Merce DK, Hesketh JE

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Journal of Nutrition

Year: 2021

Volume: 125

Issue: 6

Pages: 618-627

Print publication date: 28/03/2021

Online publication date: 06/08/2020

Acceptance date: 21/07/2020

ISSN (print): 0007-1145

ISSN (electronic): 1475-2662


DOI: 10.1017/S0007114520003128