Selenium deficiency is associated with mortality risk from COVID-19
SARS-CoV-2 infections underlie the current Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and are causative for a high death toll particularly among elderly subjects and those with comorbidities.
Selenium (Se) is an essential trace element of high importance for human health and particularly for a well-balanced immune response. Mortality risk from severe disease like sepsis or polytrauma is inversely related to Se status. We hypothesized that this relation also applies to COVID-19.
Serum samples (n=166) from COVID-19 patients (n=33) were collected consecutively and analysed for total Se by X-ray fluorescence and selenoprotein P (SELENOP) by a validated ELISA. Both biomarkers showed the expected strong correlation (r=0.7758, p<0.001), pointing to an insufficient Se availability for optimal selenoprotein expression. In comparison to reference data from a European cross sectional analysis (EPIC, n=1915), the patients showed a pronounced deficit in total serum Se (mean±SD, 50.8±15.7 vs. 84.4±23.4 µg/L) and SELENOP (3.0±1.4 vs. 4.3±1.0 mg/L)
concentrations. A Se status below the 2.5 33 th percentile of the reference population, i.e., [Se] < 45.7 µg/L and [SELENOP] < 2.56 mg/L was present in 43.4% and 39.2% of COVID samples, respectively.
The Se status was significantly higher in samples from surviving COVID patients as compared to non36 survivors (Se; 53.3±16.2 vs. 40.8±8.1 µg/L, SELENOP; 3.3±1.3 vs. 2.1±0.9 mg/L), recovering with time in survivors while remaining low or even declining in non-survivors.
We conclude that Se status analysis in COVID patients provides diagnostic information. However, causality remains unknown due to the observational nature of this study. Nevertheless, the findings strengthen the notion on a relevant role of Se for COVID convalescence, and support the discussion
on adjuvant Se supplementation in severely diseased and Se-deficient patients