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Different aspects of frailty and COVID-19: points to consider in the current pandemic and future ones

  • Hussien, Hani1, 2
  • Nastasa, Andra2
  • Apetrii, Mugurel1, 2
  • Nistor, Ionut1, 2
  • Petrovic, Mirko3
  • Covic, Adrian1, 2
  • 1 Dr C I Parhon University Hospital, Department of Nephrology, Iasi, Romania , Iasi (Romania)
  • 2 Grigore T Popa University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Bd Carol nr 50, Iasi, Romania , Iasi (Romania)
  • 3 Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium , Ghent (Belgium)
Published Article
BMC Geriatrics
BioMed Central
Publication Date
Jun 27, 2021
DOI: 10.1186/s12877-021-02316-5
Springer Nature
  • Public health, nutrition and epidemiology


BackgroundOlder adults at a higher risk of adverse outcomes and mortality if they get infected with Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS- CoV-2). These undesired outcomes are because ageing is associated with other conditions like multimorbidity, frailty and disability. This paper describes the impact of frailty on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) management and outcomes. We also try to point out the role of inflamm-ageing, immunosenescence and reduced microbiota diversity in developing a severe form of COVID-19 and a different response to COVID-19 vaccination among older frail adults. Additionally, we attempt to highlight the impact of frailty on intensive care unit (ICU) outcomes, and hence, the rationale behind using frailty as an exclusion criterion for critical care admission. Similarly, the importance of using a time-saving, validated, sensitive, and user-friendly tool for frailty screening in an acute setting as COVID-19 triage.We performed a narrative review. Publications from 1990 to March 2021 were identified by searching the electronic databases MEDLINE, CINAHL and SCOPUS.Based on this search, we have found that in older frail adults, many mechanisms contribute to the severity of COVID-19, particularly cytokine storm; those mechanisms include lower immunological capacity and status of ongoing chronic inflammation and reduced gut microbiota diversity.Higher degrees of frailty were associated with poor outcomes and higher mortality rates during and after ICU admission. Also, the response to COVID-19 vaccination among frail older adults might differ from the general population regarding effectiveness and side effects.Researches also had shown that there are many tools for identifying frailty in an acute setting that could be used in COVID-19 triage, and before ICU admission, the clinical frailty scale (CFS) was the most recommended tool.ConclusionOlder frail adults have a pre-existing immunopathological base that puts them at a higher risk of undesired outcomes and mortality due to COVID-19 and poor response to COVID-19 vaccination. Also, their admission in ICU should depend on their degree of frailty rather than their chronological age, which is better to be screened using the CFS.

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