Investigating Ketone Bodies as Immunometabolic Countermeasures against Respiratory Viral Infections

Med. 2020 Dec 18;1(1):43-65. doi: 10.1016/j.medj.2020.06.008. Epub 2020 Jul 15.


Respiratory viral infections remain a scourge, with seasonal influenza infecting millions and killing many thousands annually and viral pandemics, such as COVID-19, recurring every decade. Age, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes mellitus are risk factors for severe disease and death from viral infection. Immunometabolic therapies for these populations hold promise to reduce the risks of death and disability. Such interventions have pleiotropic effects that might not only target the virus itself but also enhance supportive care to reduce cardiopulmonary complications, improve cognitive resilience, and facilitate functional recovery. Ketone bodies are endogenous metabolites that maintain cellular energy but also feature drug-like signaling activities that affect immune activity, metabolism, and epigenetics. Here, we provide an overview of ketone body biology relevant to respiratory viral infection, focusing on influenza A and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-CoV-2, and discuss the opportunities, risks, and research gaps in the study of exogenous ketone bodies as novel immunometabolic interventions in these diseases.

Keywords: COVID-19; Influenza; Ketone bodies; Ketones; SARS-CoV-2; cytokine storm; exogenous ketone; ketone ester; ketone salt; β-hydroxybutyrate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Influenza, Human* / prevention & control
  • Ketone Bodies
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Ketone Bodies