Role of Aging and the Immune Response to Respiratory Viral Infections: Potential Implications for COVID-19.J Immunol. 2020 Jul 15; 205(2):313-320.JI
Aging impairs immunity to promote diseases, especially respiratory viral infections. The current COVID-19 pandemic, resulting from SARS-CoV-2, induces acute pneumonia, a phenotype that is alarmingly increased with aging. In this article, we review findings of how aging alters immunity to respiratory viral infections to identify age-impacted pathways common to several viral pathogens, permitting us to speculate about potential mechanisms of age-enhanced mortality to COVID-19. Aging generally leads to exaggerated innate immunity, particularly in the form of elevated neutrophil accumulation across murine and large animal studies of influenza infection. COVID-19 patients who succumb exhibit a 2-fold increase in neutrophilia, suggesting that exaggerated innate immunity contributes to age-enhanced mortality to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Further investigation in relevant experimental models will elucidate the mechanisms by which aging impacts respiratory viral infections, including SARS-CoV-2. Such investigation could identify therapies to reduce the suffering of the population at large, but especially among older people, infected with respiratory viruses.