Shingles, influenza, SARS-CoV2 – Why are older people often more severely affected or even more susceptible to certain viral infections than younger people? How efficiently does the ageing immune system fight off pathogens and what influence do lifestyle, diet and microbiome have on this? In order to be able to answer these questions and to clarify further connections between viral infectious diseases and age, a RESIST team has established the “Senior Individuals Cohort” since the end of 2019. As planned, a total of 650 mainly elderly citizens from Hanover have been included in this cohort and, despite the Corona pandemic, half of the 250 planned follow-up visits have already been carried out.

The first insights are provided by the extensive interviews that were conducted with the participants – on general living conditions, lifestyle and dietary habits as well as on illnesses, vaccinations and medication intake. For example, 17 percent of the test persons stated that they had already suffered from herpes zoster (shingles); 35 percent had suffered from one to two, five percent even three or more upper respiratory tract infections in the period of one year before recruitment and more than 4O percent answered the question about an allergy in the affirmative.

In addition, the results of the genetic analyses of all participants are already available and the composition of the immune cells and the microbiome are currently being analysed. “Currently, we are investigating a subset of samples (serum, plasma, immune cells) with a focus on susceptibility to infection to SARS-CoV2 as part of the COVID-19 Research Network Lower Saxony (COFONI),” says Dr. Lennart Rösner, a scientist at the MHH Department of Dermatology, Allergology and Venereology, who is in charge of the cohort’s daily laboratory processes.

For the analysis of the biomaterials, financial resources from various sources could be used to evaluate initial data. Based on these evaluations, further funding is currently being obtained in order to be able to carry out more in-depth planned measurements with the collected biomaterials.

The RESIST cohort represents a central RESIST project in which different RESIST projects participate and contribute different types of data. The data from the healthy participants of the SI cohort can be compared in the next step with relevant data from patients from other cohorts involved in RESIST – with the aim of being able to better understand and treat diseases.