A diminished immune response underlies age-related SARS-CoV-2 pathologies

Kohei Oishi, Shu Horiuchi, Justin Frere, Robert E Schwartz, Benjamin R tenOever

10.1016/j.celrep.2022.111002 09/06/2022

PMID: 35714615


Morbidity and mortality in response to SARS-CoV-2 infection are significantly elevated in people of advanced age. To understand the underlying biology of this phenotype, we utilize the golden hamster model to compare how the innate and adaptive immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection differed between younger and older animals. We find that while both hamster cohorts showed similar virus kinetics in the lungs, the host response in older animals was dampened, with diminished tissue repair in the respiratory tract post-infection. Characterization of the adaptive immune response also revealed age-related differences, including fewer germinal center B cells in older hamsters, resulting in reduced potency of neutralizing antibodies. Moreover, older animals demonstrate elevated suppressor T cells and neutrophils in the respiratory tract, correlating with an increase in TGF-β and IL-17 induction. Together, these data support that diminished immunity is one of the underlying causes of age-related morbidity.

Keywords: Bcl6; COVID-19; CP: Immunology; Ccr6; FoxP3; Ki67; MPO; aging; comorbidity; neutrophils; suppressor T cells.