The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact across the globe. SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19, is a coronavirus that binds to the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor. These receptors are found throughout the body but are particularly abundant in epithelial tissue of the lung and small intestine. This results in respiratory infections that differ in severity according to several factors including the health and age of an individual. This explains why the elderly have been prioritised in the Covid-19 vaccination programme. The successful development of Covid-19 vaccines, within such a short time frame, is thankfully providing hope for a return to normality in the future.
How age impacts the risk of severe illness from Covid-19
A steep exponential relationship has been described between Covid-19 death rates and age. Why are older adults considered to be at much higher risk from severe illness from the virus? Older adults are often more susceptible to infection because of a decreased immune function associated with aging. This phenomenon of immunosenescence describes the decrease in diversity and functionality of T cells and B cells. A recent study, published in eLife, investigated this decrease in lymphocyte diversity. They outlined a limitation of using mouse models to understand Covid-19 infection because of the inability of the mouse ACE2 to bind to SARS-CoV-2. Their approaches to overcome this limitation led them to conclude a link between a pro-longevity ketogenic diet and immune function.
Are younger people still affected by Covid-19?
The cancellation of GCSEs and A levels in the UK has highlighted the impact of this virus on the education system. Fortunately, young children appear to present a degree of protection against the virus. Several explanations have attempted to provide a better understanding of this phenomenon. For example, a child’s developing immune system, may protect them from responses such as a cytokine storm. The excessive production of proinflammatory cytokines leads to widespread tissue damage associated with an increased mortality rate. This raises a debate about whether under 18s should be vaccinated. Different countries have currently set out different policies regarding age of vaccination.
Differences in demographic data have outlined the spread of coronavirus variants and their variability around the world. A recent article, published in The Lancet, is one of many articles describing the increase in the number of younger Covid-19 patients in intensive care units. This study describes how the median age of patients that have died from the virus has dropped by 13 years in 2021. The trend may continue whilst young adults remain unvaccinated. This highlights the importance of preventing the spread of the virus to protect all age groups of the population.
Overall, age is directly correlated with the severity of Covid-19 infection. We must not forget, however, that some young patients with no pre-existing health conditions still suffer badly from the infection. Reports have also suggested that elderly patients, including some over the age of 100, have successfully achieved a complete recovery. Therefore, variability across people’s risk of infection is applicable to a wide range of illnesses. This emphasises the importance of pursuing a healthy aging journey.
How does this relate to AgeCurve?
AgeCurve’s direct-to-consumer, saliva based, deep proteomics aging scores are based roughly on the hallmarks of aging framework in which molecularly and/or cellularly relatively well-defined pathways and processes are singled out due to their causal roles in aging phenomena. One of the major hallmarks is immune aging or immunosenescence. AgeCurve reports on several innate immunity players potentially playing a role, including interleukins, that form part of the group of cytokines mentioned above.
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*Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only