• The Immunological Factors Predisposing to Severe Covid-19 Are Already Present in Healthy Elderly and Men.

      Kilic, Gizem; Bulut, Ozlem; Jaeger, Martin; Ter Horst, Rob; Koeken, Valerie A C M; Moorlag, Simone J C F M; Mourits, Vera P; de Bree, Charlotte; Domínguez-Andrés, Jorge; Joosten, Leo A B; et al. (Frontiers, 2021-08-09)
      Male sex and old age are risk factors for COVID-19 severity, but the underlying causes are unknown. A possible explanation for this might be the differences in immunological profiles in males and the elderly before the infection. With this in mind, we analyzed the abundance of circulating proteins and immune populations associated with severe COVID-19 in 2 healthy cohorts. Besides, given the seasonal profile of COVID-19, the seasonal response against SARS-CoV-2 could also be different in the elderly and males. Therefore, PBMCs of female, male, young, and old subjects in different seasons of the year were stimulated with heat-inactivated SARS-CoV-2 to investigate the season-dependent anti-SARS-CoV-2 immune response. We found that several T cell subsets, which are known to be depleted in severe COVID-19 patients, were intrinsically less abundant in men and older individuals. Plasma proteins increasing with disease severity, including HGF, IL-8, and MCP-1, were more abundant in the elderly and males. Upon in vitro SARS-CoV-2 stimulation, the elderly produced significantly more IL-1RA and had a dysregulated IFNγ response with lower production in the fall compared with young individuals. Our results suggest that the immune characteristics of severe COVID-19, described by a differential abundance of immune cells and circulating inflammatory proteins, are intrinsically present in healthy men and the elderly. This might explain the susceptibility of men and the elderly to SARS-CoV-2 infection.