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Vitamin C in COVID-19: Studies are Underway

Here we go again, looking for an effective therapy for COVID-19.  It’s like the story of medieval knights where every brave knight is bringing his meds, supplements and potions to see if they can vanquish the dragon plague ravaging the kingdom.  All the drug companies are hoping for their billion- dollar patent or a miracle vaccine.  Thankfully, more open-minded Knights, known as medical researchers in our reality, are looking at natural therapies with more frugal price tags.  These knights from the Medical College of Georgia are investigating how vitamin C might or might not work with this virus.  As over 30 other studies are active to see if IV vitamin C may help in active COVID-19 disease, they are considering possible molecular obstacles to vitamin C working in everyone.

When any therapies are first attempted in a human trial, much prior study has gone into the design of a trial.  Safety data from animals compiled.  Years of basic bench research on the underlying mechanisms through which the therapy would logically treat the disease have occurred.  With COVID-19 we are building on much prior understanding of immunology, virology, epidemiology, and pharmacology, yet the present layers of research are running more at hyperspeed.  The frantic trumpet call to the world’s science knights urges quick results.  That means we are learning as we go, often moving forward with therapy trial before we are as confident in the mechanisms or the potential success as we might like to be.

In the case of Vitamin C, the risk is likely pretty low that we are going to harm anyone in the trials.  The biggest risk would be that someone enrolled in a vitamin C trial would not be enrolled in another trial which might be more effective.  Since we are still learning which therapy is best, this risk is unavoidable.  Therefore, moving forward with trial even while we work on “understanding” is reasonable.

These Medical College of Georgia researchers are working from a different angle in regards to whether or not vitamin C will be helpful in COVID-19.  They are investigating whether vitamin C transport proteins may be the deciding factor in whether or not the vitamin helps COVID-19 patients.  While vitamins may be absorbed into the bloodstream easily, water soluble vitamins like vitamin C must also cross the cell membrane barrier to enter cells for us.  Inside the cells, important reactions occur, and without a ticket into the cell, the vitamin may not have a chance to participate or improve the process.

As with many health factors, things change as we age.  In this case, the transporter for vitamin C is generally lower in the elderly than in the young.  That may result in younger patients benefitting more from IV vitamin C during COVID than the elderly.  This means that any study looking at IV Vitamin C for COVID-19 must look at different age groups or even different levels of vitamin C transporter protein.  We may find that some patients will benefit from IV vitamin C more than others.  In fact, there is concern that vitamin C left outside the cells may be pro-inflammatory by contributing to oxidative stress.  This theory should press others into monitoring patients for this transporter protein.

Functional MD’s like myself are eagerly awaiting the results of the large IV vitamin C trials.  We are hoping that research proves our suspicions.  We are also hoping that the researchers factor this particular theory into their studies so we understand who is best suited for high dose vitamin C.  We can all work together to prepare ourselves and others for 2020 and beyond.

Original Article:

Gregory Patterson, Carlos M. Isales, Sadanand Fulzele. Low level of Vitamin C and dysregulation of Vitamin C transporter might be involved in the severity of COVID-19 Infection. Aging and Disease, 2020; DOI: 10.14336/AD.2020.0918

Thanks to Science Daily:

Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. “Vitamin C’s effectiveness against COVID-19 may hinge on vitamin’s natural transporter levels.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 November 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201111092921.htm>.

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