This commentary highlighted the background, take-home messages, and impacts of our 2007 British Journal of Nutrition paper entitled “Amino acids and immune function”. In 2003–2004, there was an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) caused by SARS coronavirus-1 (CoV-1) in Asian countries. By the mid-2000’s, clinical and experimental evidence indicated important roles for amino acids (AA) in improving innate and adaptive immunities in humans and animals. Based on our long-standing interest in AA metabolism and nutritional immunology, we decided to critically analyze advances in this nutritional field. Furthermore, we proposed a unified mechanism responsible for beneficial effects of AA and their products (including nitric oxide, glutathione, antibodies, and cytokines) on immune responses. We hoped that such integrated knowledge would be helpful for designing AA-based nutritional methods (e.g., supplementation with glutathione, arginine and glutamine) to prevent and treat SARS-like infectious diseases in the future. Our paper laid a framework for subsequent studies to quantify AA metabolism in intestinal bacteria, determine the effects of functional AA on cell-mediated and humoral immunities, and establish a much-needed database of AA composition in foodstuffs. Unexpectedly, COVID-19 (caused by SARS-CoV-2) emerged in December 2019 and has become one of the deadliest pandemics in history. Notably, glutathione, arginine and glutamine have now been exploited to effectively relieve severe respiratory symptoms of COVID-19 in affected patients. Functional AA (e.g., arginine, cysteine, glutamate, glutamine, glycine, taurine and tryptophan) and glutathione, which are all abundant in animal-sourced foodstuffs, are crucial for optimum immunity and health in humans and animals.