Inflammation: the key factor that explains vulnerability to severe COVID

-While access to healthcare, occupational exposure and environmental risks such as pollution all affect survival rate, for many at-risk groups, the key factor is inflammation.

-Cytokines, a key player in the immune response, can help stop viruses reproducing.

-Yet when too many are produced at once, this causes inflammation which can severely damage the lungs.

The severity of COVID-19 can vary hugely. In some it causes no symptoms at all and in others it’s life threatening, with some people particularly vulnerable to its very severe impacts.

The virus disproportionately affects men and people who are older and who have conditions such as diabetes and obesity. In the UK and other western countries, ethnic minorities have also been disproportionately affected.

While many factors contribute to how severely people are affected, including access to healthcareoccupational exposure and environmental risks such as pollution, it’s becoming clear that for some of these at-risk groups, it’s the response of their immune system – inflammation – that explains why they get so sick.

Specifically, we’re seeing that the risks associated with diabetes, obesity, age and sex are all related to the immune system functioning irregularly when confronted by the virus.

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