COVID-19: A Redox Disease-What a Stress Pandemic Can Teach Us About Resilience and What We May Learn from the Reactive Species Interactome About Its Treatment

Antioxid Redox Signal. 2021 Nov 10;35(14):1226-1268. doi: 10.1089/ars.2021.0017. Epub 2021 Jun 29.


Significance: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), affects every aspect of human life by challenging bodily, socioeconomic, and political systems at unprecedented levels. As vaccines become available, their distribution, safety, and efficacy against emerging variants remain uncertain, and specific treatments are lacking. Recent Advances: Initially affecting the lungs, COVID-19 is a complex multisystems disease that disturbs the whole-body redox balance and can be long-lasting (Long-COVID). Numerous risk factors have been identified, but the reasons for variations in susceptibility to infection, disease severity, and outcome are poorly understood. The reactive species interactome (RSI) was recently introduced as a framework to conceptualize how cells and whole organisms sense, integrate, and accommodate stress. Critical Issues: We here consider COVID-19 as a redox disease, offering a holistic perspective of its effects on the human body, considering the vulnerability of complex interconnected systems with multiorgan/multilevel interdependencies. Host/viral glycan interactions underpin SARS-CoV-2's extraordinary efficiency in gaining cellular access, crossing the epithelial/endothelial barrier to spread along the vascular/lymphatic endothelium, and evading antiviral/antioxidant defences. An inflammation-driven "oxidative storm" alters the redox landscape, eliciting epithelial, endothelial, mitochondrial, metabolic, and immune dysfunction, and coagulopathy. Concomitantly reduced nitric oxide availability renders the sulfur-based redox circuitry vulnerable to oxidation, with eventual catastrophic failure in redox communication/regulation. Host nutrient limitations are crucial determinants of resilience at the individual and population level. Future Directions: While inflicting considerable damage to health and well-being, COVID-19 may provide the ultimate testing ground to improve the diagnosis and treatment of redox-related stress diseases. "Redox phenotyping" of patients to characterize whole-body RSI status as the disease progresses may inform new therapeutic approaches to regain redox balance, reduce mortality in COVID-19 and other redox diseases, and provide opportunities to tackle Long-COVID. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 35, 1226-1268.

Keywords: coronavirus; endothelium; glycobiology; nutrition; oxidative stress; redox regulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / diagnosis
  • COVID-19 / immunology*
  • COVID-19 Drug Treatment*
  • Humans
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Pandemics*