UCD Covid-19 Response

The UCD Community is rising to the challenge posed by the global pandemic

Role of an adequate Selenium status in disease course of Covid-19


PIs: Dr David Hughes, UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science; Professor Lutz Schomburg, Charité Medical School Berlin; and Professor Gijs Du Laing, Ghent University


Selenium (Se) is an essential micronutrient needed in small amounts for incorporation into several enzymes in the form of selenocysteine, which is crucial for many physiological processes including a well-functioning antiviral immune system.

As antioxidants, these enzymes (selenoproteins) control the levels of reactive oxygen species and help to avoid tissue damage upon inflammation after viral infections. The relationship between nutritional Se status and disease course after virus infections has already been proven for various specific viruses.

In the European population, the dietary Se intake in blood (providing biomarkers of Se status, i.e. how much Se is available to the body for biological processes that require selenoproteins) are below recommended levels in several countries.

However, the Se status of the most affected Covid-19 patients, particularly the older (70+), obese, and people with a comprised immune system, has not been studied yet.

Accordingly, this project will examine in several European populations (Ireland, Belgium, Sweden, and Germany, with others to be included later) the correlation of Se status with disease course of Covid-19. Moreover, the project will assess the dietary Se intake and Se status of subjects over 70 years.

Providing that low Se status correlates with worse disease in Covid-19 and hypothesizing that elderly have insufficient Se levels, this would suggest that Se supplementation is advised to better protect this vulnerable age group against Covid-19.

In addition to Se, the levels of two other key nutrients for optimal immune function (Zinc and vitamin D) will also be measured to investigate whether combined deficiencies may also play a role and to account for relevant confounding factors in the data interpretation.

Applying appropriate statistical analysis methods, the project will here be able to determine if Se status is significantly associated with Covid-19 severity, and if it may interact together with other dietary/lifestyle factors to modify clinical course of this disease.