Is There a Role for Environmental and Metabolic Factors Predisposing to Severe COVID-19?

Horm Metab Res. 2020 Jul;52(7):540-546. doi: 10.1055/a-1182-2016. Epub 2020 Jun 29.


The severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic affects people around the world. However, there have been striking differences in the number of infected individuals and deaths in different countries. Particularly, within Central Europe in countries that are similar in ethnicity, age, and medical standards and have performed similar steps of containment, such differences in mortality rates remain inexplicable. We suggest to consider and explore environmental factors to explain these intriguing variations. Countries like Northern Italy, France, Spain, and UK have suffered from 5 times more deaths from the corona virus infection than neighboring countries like Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Denmark related to the size of their respective populations. There is a striking correlation between the level of environmental pollutants including pesticides, dioxins, and air pollution such as NO2 known to affect immune function and healthy metabolism with the rate of mortality in COVID-19 pandemic in these European countries. There is also a correlation with the use of chlorination of drinking water in these regions. In addition to the improvement of environmental protective programs, there are possibilities to lower the blood levels of these pollutants by therapeutic apheresis. Furthermore, therapeutic apheresis might be an effective method to improve metabolic inflammation, altered vascular perfusion, and neurodegeneration observed as long-term complications of COVID-19 disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / metabolism*
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Environment*
  • Environmental Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Halogenation*
  • Humans
  • Metabolism*
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / metabolism*
  • Water Supply*