Are Low Glutathione Levels a Factor in Covid-19?

Being an older patient is one of the major risk factors for mortality in cases of Covid-19. While there are always exceptions, and there are many examples of it in this virus, lowered glutathione levels appear to be a common denominator.

Glutathione (also called “reduced glutathione” and abbreviated as “GSH”) is one of the body’s own natural antioxidants, and critical to overall health in a multitude of ways.

Glutathione is a tripeptide – a triple amino acid consisting of glutamic acid, cysteine, and glycine. The cells in our body can make it but are limited by the amount of cysteine we ingest – it is not the commonest amino acid in our foods.

Unfortunately, glutathione can be depleted due to aging, stress, and Covid-19. Supplementing with glutathione may be an option to overcome these challenges, but supplementing with glutathione in itself can be a challenge.

That’s because supplemental forms of glutathione can be easily damaged and oxidized by the digestive process before they ever get a chance to do much good. Supplementation with N-acetylcysteine (NAC) can help the body synthesize more glutathione, but another promising way to boost levels is to use a sublingual (under the tongue) form.

As sublingual tablets dissolve, glutathione slowly and stably absorbs into the bloodstream. In fact, one test showed that this method boosted the ratio of healthy glutathione 65 percent better than NAC and the ratio of healthy glutathione by 230 percent compared to standard supplemental glutathione that travels through the digestive tract.

It’s going to take time before widespread solutions to Covid-19 are available for everyone. In the meantime, maintaining the best health possible through diet, lifestyle, and sensible supplementation may help bolster immune responses and avoid the worst symptoms of the disease should infection occur.


Khanfar A, Al Qaroot B. Could glutathione depletion be the Trojan horse of COVID-19 mortality? Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2020 Dec;24(23):12500-12509. doi: 10.26355/eurrev_202012_24046. PMID: 33336769.

Objective: Since the emergence of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the death toll has been increasing daily. Many risk factors are associated with a high mortality rate in COVID-19. Establishment of a common pathway among these risk factors could improve our understanding of COVID-19 severity and mortality. This review aims at establishing this common pathway and its possible effect on COVID-19 mortality.

Materials and methods: The current review was executed in five consecutive stages starting from determining the risk factors of COVID-19 mortality and trying to find a common pathway among them depending on the available literature. This was followed by proposing a mechanism explaining how this common pathway could increase the mortality. Finally, its potential role in managing COVID-19 was proposed.

Results: This review identified this common pathway to be a low baseline of reduced glutathione (i.e., GSH) level. In particular, this review provided an in-depth discussion regarding the pathophysiology by which COVID-19 leads to GSH depletion, tissue damage, and acute respiratory distress syndrome. In addition, the current review demonstrated how GSH depletion could result in failure of the immune system and rendering the end organs vulnerable to damage from the oxidative stress.

Conclusions: This preclinical study shows that GSH depletion may have a central role in COVID-19 mortality and pathophysiology. Therefore, elevating the GSH level in tissues may decrease the severity and mortality rates of COVID-19.

Here is the link to the complete article: Could glutathione depletion be the Trojan horse of COVID-19 mortality?