Selenium deficiency and viral infection

J Nutr. 2003 May;133(5 Suppl 1):1463S-7S. doi: 10.1093/jn/133.5.1463S.


The discovery that the juvenile cardiomyopathy known as Keshan disease likely has a dual etiology that involves both a nutritional deficiency of the essential trace mineral selenium (Se) as well as an infection with an enterovirus provided the impetus for additional studies of relationships between nutrition and viral infection. An amyocarditic strain of coxsackievirus B3, CVB3/0, converted to virulence when it was inoculated into Se-deficient mice. This conversion was accompanied by changes in the genetic structure of the virus so that its genome closely resembled that of other known virulent CVB3 strains. Similar alterations in virulence and genomic composition of CVB3/0 could be observed in mice fed normal diets but genetically deprived of the antioxidant selenoenzyme glutathione peroxidase (knockout mice). More recent research has shown that a mild strain of influenza virus, influenza A/Bangkok/1/79, also exhibits increased virulence when given to Se-deficient mice. This increased virulence is accompanied by multiple changes in the viral genome in a segment previously thought to be relatively stable. Epidemic neuropathy in Cuba has features that suggest a combined nutritional/viral etiology. Further research, both basic and applied, is needed to assess properly the possible role of malnutrition in contributing to the emergence of novel viral diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Coxsackievirus Infections / etiology
  • Cuba / epidemiology
  • Enterovirus / genetics
  • Enterovirus Infections / etiology
  • Genome, Viral*
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology
  • Orthomyxoviridae / genetics
  • Selenium / deficiency*
  • Trace Elements / deficiency*
  • Virus Diseases / epidemiology
  • Virus Diseases / etiology*


  • Trace Elements
  • Selenium