Although the course of disease for most people with COVID-19 is rather mild, the greatest concern is the life-threatening complications in the respiratory tract caused by oxidative stress and cytokine storm where the immune system attacks healthy tissue. Scientists are busy looking for new therapies such as intravenous vitamin C that is about to be tested in a new Chinese placebo-controlled study, according to an article that is published in Critical Care. Several researchers say that vitamin C from dietary sources and supplements has a preventive effect because it strengthens and regulates the immune defense in the respiratory tract. The same is the case with vitamin D and selenium.
The new strain of corona virus, COVID-19, attacks the lower respiratory tract. Most cases are mild but potentially life-threatening complications may occur. This happens if the patient sustains acute respiratory failure also known as ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome). This life-threatening condition is not caused by the virus itself but by an overactive immune defense that initiates cytokine storm, hyperinflammation, and oxidative stress that attack healthy tissue. Weak patients are at increased risk and may not survive. It is the immune reaction that becomes potentially lethal because it lacks the nutrients it needs to activate and regulate itself, so healthy tissues stay protected.
Vitamin C counteracts cytokine storm and oxidative stress
When we are infected by a virus or by bacteria the immune system’s white blood cells generates cascades of free radicals that are used as missiles. The production of pro-inflammatory cytokines also generates massive amounts of free radicals. What is important is that these free radicals only carry out their assigned tasks without causing oxidative stress, which is a harmful imbalance between free radicals and protective antioxidants.
Vitamin C is primarily known for its ability to prevent scurvy, which is the classical deficiency disease. However, vitamin C is also important for the immune system and works as a powerful antioxidant that protects our cells and tissues against oxidative stress.
During an infection, the immune system’s white blood cells, the so-called macrophages, use large quantities of vitamin C to support their function as storm troops. Therefore, the need for vitamin C can increase drastically when there is an infection in the body. In serious cases such as when COVID-19 causes ARDS, it may be necessary to use intravenous vitamin C therapy to speed up the effect.
According to the new article in Critical Care, 26 percent of COVID-19 patients that are hospitalized with pneumonia are transferred to intensive care units because they develop ARDS and are at increased risk of circulatory shock. It is the same life-threatening condition that is seen with sepsis (blood poisoning). Earlier studies show that intravenous therapy with large quantities of vitamin C given to sepsis patients helps save lives. According to a randomized, controlled American study of 167 patients with sepsis-related ARDS, intravenous administration of 15 grams of vitamin C per day for four days reduces mortality among these patients.
Scientists from Wuhan in China, the place from which the COVID-19 virus is believed to originate, are about to test the effect of intravenous vitamin C therapy on COVID-19 patients in intensive care. In this placebo-controlled, randomized study, 140 patients will be given 24 grams of intravenous vitamin C or placebo daily for seven days. The scientists will also observe the patients’ organ function, their need for medicine and ventilators, their time spent in intensive care, and their mortality rate within a 28-day period.
They hope to have completed their study by the end of September (2020).
Although results will not be available in time to save the thousands of lives that will be lost in the meantime, the scientists hope that their study will provide useful knowledge about how to use intravenous vitamin C in future epidemics. It is a both simple and inexpensive therapy form.
Also remember vitamin D and selenium for prevention and add-on therapy
We have already published several articles on this site about vitamin D and selenium and how these nutrients are determining for a well-functioning immune defense, how widespread nutrient deficiencies may contribute to new virus epidemics, and how lack of the nutrients may cause infections to become life-threatening.
Oxidative stress and cytokine storm lead to life-threatening complications
Anitra C. Carr. A new clinical trial to test high-dose vitamin C in patients with COVID-19. Critical Care. 2020
Liu K. et al. Clinical characteristics of novel coronavirus cases in tertiary hospitals in Hubei Province. Chin Med J 2020.
Carr AC et al. Hypovitaminosis C and vitamin C deficiency in critically ill patients despite recommended enteral and parenteral intakes. Crit Care 2017
Richard Z Cheng et al. Early Large Dose Intravenous Vitamin C is the Treatment of Choice for 2019-vCov pneumonia. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, Feb 16, 2020
Alpha A. Fowler et al. Effect of Vitamin C infusion on Organ Failure and Biomarkers of Inflammation and Vascular Injury in Patients With Sepsis and Severe Acute Respiratory Failure. JAMA 2019
Zhang J et al. Association between regional selenium status and reported outcome of COVID-19 cases in China. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Apr. 2020
Eamon Laird, Rose Anne Kenny. Vitamin D deficiency in Ireland – implications for COVID 19. Results from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) April 2020
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