Fostering healthy aging: the interdependency of infections, immunity and frailty

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


  • Davide L Vetrano
  • Federico Triolo
  • Stefania Maggi
  • Richard Malley
  • Thomas A Jackson
  • And 4 others
  • Andrea Poscia
  • Roberto Bernabei
  • Luigi Ferrucci
  • Laura Fratiglioni

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • National Institute on Aging


Untangling the interdependency of infections, immunity and frailty may help to clarify their roles in the maintenance of health in aging individuals, and the recent COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted such priority. In this scoping review we aimed to systematically collect the evidence on 1) the impact of common infections such as influenza, pneumonia and varicella zoster on frailty development, and 2) the role played by frailty in the response to immunization of older adults. Findings are discussed under a unifying framework to identify knowledge gaps and outline their clinical and public health implications to foster a healthier aging. Twenty-nine studies (113,863 participants) selected to answer the first question provided a moderately strong evidence of an association between infections and physical as well as cognitive decline - two essential dimensions of frailty. Thirteen studies (34,520 participants) investigating the second aim, showed that frailty was associated with an impaired immune response in older ages, likely due to immunosenescence. However, the paucity of studies, the absence of tools to predict vaccine efficacy, and the lack of studies investigating the efficacy of newer vaccines in presence of frailty, strongly limit the formulation of more personalized immunization strategies for older adults. The current evidence suggests that infections and frailty repeatedly cross each other pathophysiological paths and accelerate the aging process in a vicious circle. Such evidence opens to several considerations. First, the prevention of both conditions pass through a life course approach, which includes several individual and societal aspects. Second, the maintenance of a well-functioning immune system may be accomplished by preventing frailty, and vice versa. Third, increasing the adherence to immunization may delay the onset of frailty and maintain the immune system homeostasis, beyond preventing infections.

Bibliographic note

Publisher Copyright: Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Original languageEnglish
Article number101351
Number of pages1
JournalAgeing Research Reviews
Early online date7 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • healthy aging, frailty, vaccination, immunosenescence

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