SARS-CoV-2 and mitochondrial health: implications of lifestyle and ageing

Alistair V.W. Nunn, Geoffrey W. Guy, Wolfgang Brysch, Stanley W. Botchway, Wayne Frasch, Edward J. Calabrese, Jimmy D. Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Infection with SARs-COV-2 displays increasing fatality with age and underlying co-morbidity, in particular, with markers of the metabolic syndrome and diabetes, which seems to be associated with a “cytokine storm” and an altered immune response. This suggests that a key contributory factor could be immunosenescence that is both age-related and lifestyle-induced. As the immune system itself is heavily reliant on mitochondrial function, then maintaining a healthy mitochondrial system may play a key role in resisting the virus, both directly, and indirectly by ensuring a good vaccine response. Furthermore, as viruses in general, and quite possibly this new virus, have also evolved to modulate immunometabolism and thus mitochondrial function to ensure their replication, this could further stress cellular bioenergetics. Unlike most sedentary modern humans, one of the natural hosts for the virus, the bat, has to “exercise” regularly to find food, which continually provides a powerful adaptive stimulus to maintain functional muscle and mitochondria. In effect the bat is exposed to regular hormetic stimuli, which could provide clues on how to resist this virus. In this paper we review the data that might support the idea that mitochondrial health, induced by a healthy lifestyle, could be a key factor in resisting the virus, and for those people who are perhaps not in optimal health, treatments that could support mitochondrial function might be pivotal to their long-term recovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number33
JournalImmunity and Ageing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Aging


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