One of the issues that has baffled healthcare professionals is the question of why some COVID-19 patients experience only very mild symptoms, while others quickly develop life-threatening conditions, with some ultimately dying from the disease.
Scientists believe that in at least some cases, the patients’ own immune systems are going into overdrive, creating more damage than the virus itself.
This phenomenon, known as a cytokine storm, is not unique to the novel coronavirus, however. It is a well-recognized feature of autoimmune diseases like juvenile arthritis, and researchers have been looking for treatments to prevent these storms for some time.
One treatment which has a proven track record at reducing the effects of cytokine storms is intravenous vitamin C.
Now, a study published in the Journal of Pharma Nutrition has examined the potential of using IV vitamin C to reduce the effects of cytokine storms in patients suffering with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome caused by COVID-19. And their findings offer new hope in the fight against the coronavirus. (Related: Medical journal recommends vitamin C for COVID-19 and related acute respiratory distress syndrome.)
So, what exactly is a cytokine storm?
Whenever the body is fighting off infection, a normal immune response kicks in, and part of this process involves the release of biological chemicals that stimulate cellular pathways and facilitate communication between the different cells. These chemicals are known as cytokines.
When they do their job properly, cytokines are an important part of the body’s natural immune response, but in some cases a certain pathway can be overstimulated, causing damage to the patient.
Clinically speaking, a cytokine storm means a cell pathway has been turned on, leading to the production of a number of biological mediators (which are kind of like signal transmitters) that cause changes to the body and interfere with normal cell function. Commonly, this means an excessive number of cytokines are released, which create high levels of inflammation in the area of the body being flooded—so much inflammation, even, that it can be fatal.
In the abstract of the study referenced above, the scientists explain that in COVID-19 patients, cytokine storms are linked with pneumonia, which in turn, can result in a life-threatening lung disorder known as Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). Many COVID-19 patients are dying after developing ARDS.
If healthcare practitioners want to save lives, they have to figure out a way to avert this process. That’s where IV vitamin C comes into its own. (Related: Vitamin D identified as the “survival nutrient” against covid-19… could cut mortality rate in HALF, say researchers.)
Vitamin C has been studied for decades as a treatment for multiple conditions and has a proven scientific track record as an effective treatment for everything from fatigue to certain types of cancer.
With this in mind, the research team set out to examine its efficacy against cytokine storms.
The study abstract explains what they found:
The administration of anti-oxidizing agents along with proven conventional supportive therapies is believed to have an important role in controlling these medical situations. … IV Vitamin C and other antioxidants are extremely good agents for ARDS. These can be applied clinically. Importantly, high dose IV Vit-C is safe and effective. …
It is believed that ARDS is the main mechanism for Covid19?s action. This is followed by increased oxidative stress because of the release of free radicals and cytokines. Considering this mechanism of the process, a large dose of Vit-C should play a key role in the management of Covid19. [Emphasis added]
The researchers concluded that additional studies investigating the merits of IV vitamin C in the treatment of COVID-19 are “definitively warranted.”
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