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, 6 (1), 73-82

Dietary Selenium in Adjuvant Therapy of Viral and Bacterial Infections


Dietary Selenium in Adjuvant Therapy of Viral and Bacterial Infections

Holger Steinbrenner et al. Adv Nutr.


Viral and bacterial infections are often associated with deficiencies in macronutrients and micronutrients, including the essential trace element selenium. In selenium deficiency, benign strains of Coxsackie and influenza viruses can mutate to highly pathogenic strains. Dietary supplementation to provide adequate or supranutritional selenium supply has been proposed to confer health benefits for patients suffering from some viral diseases, most notably with respect to HIV and influenza A virus (IAV) infections. In addition, selenium-containing multimicronutrient supplements improved several clinical and lifestyle variables in patients coinfected with HIV and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Selenium status may affect the function of cells of both adaptive and innate immunity. Supranutritional selenium promotes proliferation and favors differentiation of naive CD4-positive T lymphocytes toward T helper 1 cells, thus supporting the acute cellular immune response, whereas excessive activation of the immune system and ensuing host tissue damage are counteracted through directing macrophages toward the M2 phenotype. This review provides an up-to-date overview on selenium in infectious diseases caused by viruses (e.g., HIV, IAV, hepatitis C virus, poliovirus, West Nile virus) and bacteria (e.g., M. tuberculosis, Helicobacter pylori). Data from epidemiologic studies and intervention trials, with selenium alone or in combination with other micronutrients, and animal experiments are discussed against the background of dietary selenium requirements to alter immune functions.

Keywords: AIDS; immunity; micronutrient; selenoprotein; supplementation.

Conflict of interest statement

Author disclosures: H Steinbrenner, S Al-Quraishy, MA Dkhil, F Wunderlich, and H Sies, no conflicts of interest.


Simplified scheme depicting the influence of dietary Se status on the immune response against pathogens, as summarized from references and –. Supranutritional selenium intake was shown to favor proliferation and differentiation of activated CD4-positive T cells toward TH1 cells, whereas macrophages are directed toward an M2 phenotype. Red and blue arrows indicate the shift toward a more proinflammatory and a more anti-inflammatory phenotype, respectively. Se, selenium; TH1, T helper 1; TH2, T helper 2.

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