Metabolic syndrome and aberrant immune responses to viral infection and vaccination: Insights from small animal models

Elizabeth Geerling, Muddassar Hameed, James Weger-Lucarelli, Amelia K. Pinto

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This review outlines the propensity for metabolic syndrome (MetS) to induce elevated disease severity, higher mortality rates post-infection, and poor vaccination outcomes for viral pathogens. MetS is a cluster of conditions including high blood glucose, an increase in circulating low-density lipoproteins and triglycerides, abdominal obesity, and elevated blood pressure which often overlap in their occurrence. MetS diagnoses are on the rise, as reported cases have increased by greater than 35% since 1988, resulting in one-third of United States adults currently diagnosed as MetS patients. In the aftermath of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, a link between MetS and disease severity was established. Since then, numerous studies have been conducted to illuminate the impact of MetS on enhancing virally induced morbidity and dysregulation of the host immune response. These correlative studies have emphasized the need for elucidating the mechanisms by which these alterations occur, and animal studies conducted as early as the 1940s have linked the conditions associated with MetS with enhanced viral disease severity and poor vaccine outcomes. In this review, we provide an overview of the importance of considering overall metabolic health in terms of cholesterolemia, glycemia, triglyceridemia, insulin and other metabolic molecules, along with blood pressure levels and obesity when studying the impact of metabolism-related malignancies on immune function. We highlight the novel insights that small animal models have provided for MetS-associated immune dysfunction following viral infection. Such animal models of aberrant metabolism have paved the way for our current understanding of MetS and its impact on viral disease severity, dysregulated immune responses to viral pathogens, poor vaccination outcomes, and contributions to the emergence of viral variants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1015563
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
StatePublished - Nov 30 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 Geerling, Hameed, Weger-Lucarelli and Pinto.


  • dyslipidemia
  • hypertension
  • metabolic syndrome
  • obesity
  • type 2 diabetes
  • vaccination
  • vaccine efficacy
  • viral infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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