Aging in COVID-19: Vulnerability, immunity and intervention

Ageing Res Rev. 2021 Jan;65:101205. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2020.101205. Epub 2020 Oct 31.


The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic was first reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019, moved across the globe at an unprecedented speed, and is having a profound and yet still unfolding health and socioeconomic impacts. SARS-CoV-2, a β-coronavirus, is a highly contagious respiratory pathogen that causes a disease that has been termed the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Clinical experience thus far indicates that COVID-19 is highly heterogeneous, ranging from being asymptomatic and mild to severe and causing death. Host factors including age, sex, and comorbid conditions are key determinants of disease severity and progression. Aging itself is a prominent risk factor for severe disease and death from COVID-19. We hypothesize that age-related decline and dysregulation of immune function, i.e., immunosenescence and inflammaging play a major role in contributing to heightened vulnerability to severe COVID-19 outcomes in older adults. Much remains to be learned about the immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection. We need to begin partitioning all immunological outcome data by age to better understand disease heterogeneity and aging. Such knowledge is critical not only for understanding of COVID-19 pathogenesis but also for COVID-19 vaccine development.

Keywords: Aging; Anti-IL-6 therapy; COVID-19; Cytokine storm; Immunopathology; Immunosenescence; Inflammaging; SARS-CoV-2; Vaccination.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • COVID-19*
  • China
  • Coronavirus*
  • Humans
  • Immunity
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • COVID-19 Vaccines