Selenium and selenoproteins in viral infection with potential relevance to COVID-19

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Ethan W Taylor, Senior Research Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: Selenium is a trace element essential to human health largely because of its incorporation into selenoproteins that have a wide range of protective functions. Selenium has an ongoing history of reducing the incidence and severity of various viral infections; for example, a German study found selenium status to be significantly higher in serum samples from surviving than non-surviving COVID-19 patients. Furthermore, a significant, positive, linear association was found between the cure rate of Chinese patients with COVID-19 and regional selenium status. Moreover, the cure rate continued to rise beyond the selenium intake required to optimise selenoproteins, suggesting that selenoproteins are probably not the whole story. Nonetheless, the significantly reduced expression of a number of selenoproteins, including those involved in controlling ER stress, along with increased expression of IL-6 in SARS-CoV-2 infected cells in culture suggests a potential link between reduced selenoprotein expression and COVID-19-associated inflammation. In this comprehensive review, we describe the history of selenium in viral infections and then go on to assess the potential benefits of adequate and even supra-nutritional selenium status. We discuss the indispensable function of the selenoproteins in coordinating a successful immune response and follow by reviewing cytokine excess, a key mediator of morbidity and mortality in COVID-19, and its relationship to selenium status. We comment on the fact that the synthetic redox-active selenium compound, ebselen, has been found experimentally to be a strong inhibitor of the main SARS-CoV-2 protease that enables viral maturation within the host. That finding suggests that redox-active selenium species formed at high selenium intake might hypothetically inhibit SARS-CoV-2 proteases. We consider the tactics that SARS-CoV-2 could employ to evade an adequate host response by interfering with the human selenoprotein system. Recognition of the myriad mechanisms by which selenium might potentially benefit COVID-19 patients provides a rationale for randomised, controlled trials of selenium supplementation in SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Additional Information

Redox Biology 37, 101715.
Language: English
Date: 2020
SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, Selenium, Selenoproteins, Redox-active selenium species, Ebselen

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