It is widely appreciated that old people have a poor time of it when it comes to infectious disease. Seasonal influenza kills tens of thousands of older people every year in the US alone.
The aged immune system functions poorly, and vaccinations for many conditions have low success rates in older people. Thus the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths are old people exhibiting immunosenescence.
Given that the world at large seems to be entirely accepting of the yearly toll of influenza, while COVID-19 is classed as an apocalypse of some sort, one has to wonder how much of the hysteria surrounding COVID-19 stems from the rare – but highly publicized – deaths of younger individuals. Or perhaps if the rising toll of every influenza season was reported in the same way as deaths from COVID-19, more might be done? Human psychology is a strange thing.
An enormous amount of government and other funding will be directed towards fundamental infectious disease research in the years ahead, once things have settled down somewhat and COVID-19 has faded into the backdrop. That is is one consequence of a pandemic that captures the attention of the world to the degree that this one has, deservedly or otherwise.
This was perhaps the perfect storm, as ominous rumblings and awareness initiatives have been ongoing for some time regarding the threat of SARS-like viruses making the leap from animals to humans. A critical mass was finally reached. That COVID-19 has so far turned out to be less terrible than suspected at the outset is beside the point. The organizations of the world were primed to react in the way they are now to the first SARS-like virus that appeared remotely threatening.
The prospect of a large increase in funding for infectious disease and immunology research means that scientists in every relevant field of study are racing to position themselves to try to capture a portion of those funds. We outsiders don't see the ferocious pace of grant writing, but published papers are a visible sign of this energetic process.
A few recent examples are noted below. Researchers involved in immunology and aging are taking this moment in history to remind the world that, yes, the immune system decays with age, old people bear the brunt of infectious disease as a result, and perhaps we should do something about this, now that we can target the mechanisms of aging – the cause of immunosenescence.
Source: Fight Aging!