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The recent pandemic Sars-CoV2 infection and studies on previous influenza epidemic have drawn attention to the association between the obesity and infectious diseases susceptibility and worse outcome. Metabolic complications, nutritional aspects, physical inactivity, and a chronic unbalance in the hormonal and adipocytokine microenvironment are major determinants in the severity of viral infections in obesity. By these pleiotropic mechanisms obesity impairs immune surveillance and the higher leptin concentrations produced by adipose tissue and that characterize obesity substantially contribute to such immune response dysregulation. Indeed, leptin not only controls energy balance and body weight, but also plays a regulatory role in the interplay between energy metabolism and immune system. Since leptin receptor is expressed throughout the immune system, leptin may exert effects on cells of both innate and adaptive immune system. Chronic inflammatory states due to metabolic (i.e., obesity) as well as infectious diseases increase leptin concentrations and consequently lead to leptin resistance further fueling inflammation. Multiple factors, including inflammation and ER stress, contribute to leptin resistance. Thus, if leptin is recognized as one of the adipokines responsible for the low grade inflammation found in obesity, on the other hand, impairments of leptin signaling due to leptin resistance appear to blunt the immunologic effects of leptin and possibly contribute to impaired vaccine-induced immune responses. However, many aspects concerning leptin interactions with inflammation and immune system as well as the therapeutical approaches to overcome leptin resistance and reduced vaccine effectiveness in obesity remain a challenge for future research.


Valeria Guglielmi, Luca Colangeli, Monica D'Adamo, Paolo Sbraccia. Susceptibility and Severity of Viral Infections in Obesity: Lessons from Influenza to COVID-19. Does Leptin Play a Role? International journal of molecular sciences. 2021 Mar 20;22(6)

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PMID: 33804765

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