COVID-19 and beyond: Reassessing the role of thymosin alpha1 in lung infections

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



International immunopharmacology






COVID-19; Fungal infections; Lung infections; Thymosin; Tolerance


The recent COVID-19 pandemic has catalyzed the attention of the scientific community to the long-standing issue of lower respiratory tract infections. The myriad of airborne bacterial, viral and fungal agents to which humans are constantly exposed represents a constant threat to susceptible individuals and bears the potential to reach a catastrophic scale when the ease of inter-individual transmission couples with a severe pathogenicity. While we might be past the threat of COVID-19, the risk of future outbreaks of respiratory infections is tangible and argues for a comprehensive assessment of the pathogenic mechanisms shared by airborne pathogens. On this regard, it is clear that the immune system play a major role in dictating the clinical course of the infection. A balanced immune response is required not only to disarm the pathogens, but also to prevent collateral tissue damage, thus moving at the interface between resistance to infection and tolerance. Thymosin alpha1 (Tα1), an endogenous thymic peptide, is increasingly being recognized for its ability to work as an immunoregulatory molecule able to balance a derailed immune response, working as immune stimulatory or immune suppressive in a context-dependent manner. In this review, we will take advantage from the recent work on the COVID-19 pandemic to reassess the role of Tα1 as a potential therapeutic molecule in lung infections caused by either defective or exaggerated immune responses. The elucidation of the immune regulatory mechanisms of Tα1 might open a new window of opportunity for the clinical translation of this enigmatic molecule and a potential new weapon in our arsenal against lung infections.


Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine