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As highlighted by the COVID-19 global pandemic, elderly individuals comprise the majority of cases of severe viral infection outcomes and death. A combined inability to control viral replication and exacerbated inflammatory immune activation in elderly patients causes irreparable immune-mediated tissue pathology in response to infection. Key to these responses are type I, II, and III interferons (IFNs), which are involved in inducing an antiviral response, as well as controlling and suppressing inflammation and immunopathology. IFNs support monocyte/macrophage-stimulated immune responses that clear infection and promote their immunosuppressive functions that prevent excess inflammation and immune-mediated pathology. The timing and magnitude of IFN responses to infection are critical towards their immunoregulatory functions and ability to prevent immunopathology. Aging is associated with multiple defects in the ability of macrophages and dendritic cells to produce IFNs in response to viral infection, leading to a dysregulation of inflammatory immune responses. Understanding the implications of aging on IFN-regulated inflammation will give critical insights on how to treat and prevent severe infection in vulnerable individuals. In this review, we describe the causes of impaired IFN production in aging, and the evidence to suggest that these impairments impact the regulation of the innate and adaptive immune response to infection, thereby causing disease pathology.


Emily Feng, Elizabeth Balint, Sophie M Poznanski, Ali A Ashkar, Mark Loeb. Aging and Interferons: Impacts on Inflammation and Viral Disease Outcomes. Cells. 2021 Mar 23;10(3)

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PMID: 33806810

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