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Selenium and viral infection: are there lessons for COVID-19?



Derry K. Mercer

John E. Hesketh


Selenium (Se) is a micronutrient that is essential for human health. Sub-optimal Se status is common, occurring in a significant proportion of the population across the world, including parts of Europe and China. Human and animal studies have shown that Se status is a key determinant of the host response to viral infections. In this review, we address the question whether Se intake is a factor in determining the severity of response to COVID-19. Emphasis is placed on epidemiological and animal studies which suggest that Se affects host response to RNA viruses and on the molecular mechanisms by which Se and selenoproteins modulate the inter-linked redox homeostasis, stress response and inflammatory response. Together these studies indicate that Se status is an important factor in determining the host response to viral infections. Therefore, we conclude that Se status is likely to influence human response to the SARS-CoV-2 infection and that Se status is one (of several) risk factors which may impact on the outcome of SARS-CoV-2 infection, particularly in populations where Se intake is suboptimal or low. We suggest the use of appropriate markers to assess the Se status of COVID-19 patients and possible supplementation may be beneficial in limiting the severity of symptoms, especially in countries where Se status is regarded as sub-optimal.


BERMANO, G., MÉPLAN, C., MERCER, D.K. and HESKETH, J.E. 2021. Selenium and viral infection: are there lessons for COVID-19? British journal of nutrition [online], 125(6), pages 618-627. Available from:

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Jul 23, 2020
Online Publication Date Aug 6, 2020
Publication Date Mar 28, 2021
Deposit Date Jul 23, 2020
Publicly Available Date Feb 7, 2021
Journal British journal of nutrition
Print ISSN 0007-1145
Electronic ISSN 1475-2662
Publisher Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 125
Issue 6
Pages 618-627
Keywords Selenium; COVID-19; Inflammation; Viral infection; Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2; Redox status; Micronutrients
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