Thymic Dysfunction and Atrophy in COVID-19 Disease Complicated by Inflammation, Malnutrition and Cachexia

23 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2020 Last revised: 31 Aug 2020

See all articles by Kate Chiang

Kate Chiang

KARE Biosciences

Kamyar Kalantar-Zadeh

University of California Irvine

Ajay Gupta

University of California Irvine

Date Written: July 13, 2020

Abstract

The current COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across developing countries is putting millions at risk of protein-energy malnutrition by pushing them into poverty and disrupting the global food supply chain. COVID-19 disease and protein-energy malnutrition are both known to cause immune dysfunction. The objective of this review is to highlight the known pathogenetic mechanisms underlying immune dysfunction in COVID-19 disease and malnutrition, and thereby identify preventive and therapeutic interventions that would help limit and contain the global health impact of this pandemic. Severe COVID-19 disease is characterized by dysregulation of myeloid compartments and lymphopenia. Lymphopenia is often protracted and outlasts the cytokine storm, suggesting underlying thymic dysfunction or involution. The thymus is considered a barometer of malnutrition, and leptin deficiency induced by protein-energy malnutrition can lead to thymic dysfunction and atrophy. Immune dysfunction in COVID-19 disease and malnutrition may be further increased by comorbidities including zinc and vitamin deficiencies, hyperinflammation, and stress. Thymic dysfunction or involution, especially in children, can potentially slow the recovery from COVID-19 disease and increase the risk of other infections. National governments and international organizations including WHO, World Food Program, and UNICEF should institute measures to ensure provision of food including micronutrients for the poor, thereby mitigating the health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially amongst children in developing countries.

Note: Conflict of Interest: AG has filed provisional patents for use of Ramatroban as an immunotherapy to treat COVID-19 infection. (Gupta, A.Use of Ramatrobanas a therapeutic agent for prevention and treatment of viral infections including COVID-Application no. 63/003,286 filed on March 31, 2020; and Gupta A. Use of a DP2 antagonist such as Ramatroban as a therapeutic agent for treatment of adults with viral infection including COVID-19 Provisional Patent Application no. 63/005,205 filed on April 3, 2020). Other authors have not declared conflict of interest.

Funding: None to declare

Keywords: COVID-19, protein-calorie malnutrition, thymic atrophy, inflammation, zinc, cachexia, lymphopenia, leptin, stress, glucocorticoids

Suggested Citation

Chiang, Kate and Kalantar-Zadeh, Kamyar and Gupta, Ajay, Thymic Dysfunction and Atrophy in COVID-19 Disease Complicated by Inflammation, Malnutrition and Cachexia (July 13, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3649836 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3649836

Kate Chiang

KARE Biosciences ( email )

4003 E La Veta
Orange, CA 92869
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.karebio.com

Kamyar Kalantar-Zadeh

University of California Irvine ( email )

Division of Nephrology, University of California I
101 City Drive South, City Tower, Suite 400-ZOT;40
Orange, CA California 92868-3217
United States
7144565142 (Phone)

Ajay Gupta (Contact Author)

University of California Irvine ( email )

Division of Nephrology, University of California I
101 City Drive South, City Tower, Suite 400-ZOT;40
Orange, CA California 92868-3217
United States
5624197029 (Phone)
92868-3217 (Fax)

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