SARS-CoV-2 is a single-stranded RNA virus responsible for COVID-19 infections. Covid-19 infections have a complex metabolism that is comparable to RNA virus infections such as coxsackievirus, influenza virus, Hanta virus, and HIV virus infections.
Selenium deficiency is associated with a higher susceptibility to RNA viral infections and with more severe disease outcomes [Hiffler 2020].
Selenium deficiency is associated with increases in the mutation, replication, and virulence of RNA viruses [Hiffler 2020].
Low serum selenium status (below 85 microg/mL) and marginal serum selenium status (between 85 and 100 microg/mL) are common in many regions of the world, especially in many parts of Europe, the Middle East, China, and East Asia.
Selenium supplementation may limit the severity of Covid-19 infections, particularly in regions in which the selenium intake is low [Bermano 2020, Hiffler 2020].
Evidence for a Link Between Selenium Status and Viral Infection Severity
The early evidence came from study of the Keshan Disease in China – caused by the combination of the coxsackie B3 virus and low selenium status. By adding selenium to the soil fertilizer and by encouraging the use of selenium supplements, Chinese authorities have been able to reduce significantly the incidence of the disease [Bermano 2020].
Then came evidence from mouse studies that showed that there is increased virulence to coxsackie and influenza viruses in hosts with low selenium status [Bermano 2020].
Next came evidence that low selenium status, commonly seen in HIV-infected patients, is associated with reduced numbers of CD4 T cells and with increased disease progression and death rates [Bermano 2020].read more
Adequate intakes of selenium, zinc, and vitamin D are essential to ensure resistance to viral infections, to promote strong immune function, and to reduce levels of inflammation. A team of Norwegian, Swedish, and Russian researchers recommends the initiation of adequate supplementation with these micronutrients in high-risk areas and in cases of suspected exposure to SARS-CoV-2 [Alexander 2020].
Selenium Supplementation to Protect Against the Hyper-Inflammation Associated with COVID-19
Consequently, individuals at high risk who have a selenium status below 100 micrograms per liter should consider daily supplementation at a dose of 100–200 micrograms of selenium per day [Alexander 2020].read more
China and Corona Virus will be forever linked in our minds. However, there is another important connection that we should be making: selenium status and its effect on COVID-19 virus in China.
Let me explain. Chinese and American and British researchers have published a letter in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in which they report evidence of a significant association between regional selenium status and the reported cure-rate of COVID-19 infected patients in China [Zhang 2020].
Beginning in mid-February 2020, the researchers collected data from the Baidu website, which they describe as a non-governmental website that provides daily updates of reports from the health commission of each province in China.read more
Viruses and viral infections are scary enough in and of themselves. Witness the effects of the current corona virus pandemic COVID-19.
Even more scary are the effects of nutritional deficiencies such as selenium deficiency on the body’s ability to fight off a viral infection.
Selenium Deficiency Associated with Increased Virulence of Viruses
Low selenium status, defined variously as serum selenium status below 70 micrograms per liter or below 85 micrograms per liter, is associated with the following deleterious effects of viral contagion [Méplan & Hughes 2020]:
The viral pathogens induce oxidative stress by generating more harmful free radicals. The result is oxidative damage to cells, proteins, and DNA.
The viral pathogens diminish the cells’ antioxidant defenses including diminishing the activity of the antioxidant seleno-enzymes, e.g. the glutathione peroxidases and the thioredoxin reductases.
The viral pathogens increase oxidative stress to the extent that it can induce mutations of the genomes of the attacking virus. The result is that the mutated viruses are more virulent than the initial viruses were. This increased virulence of mutated viruses has been seen in both coxsackie viruses and influenza viruses. The consequence of the increased virulence is to make the viruses more dangerous even to people with adequate selenium status.
The viral pathogens reduce the ability of the immune system to respond to the virus. This reduced immune response to viruses has also been seen in the response of selenium deficient humans to the HIV virus and the hepatitis B and C viruses.
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