Deficiencies and scurvy: Study reveals vitamin C can help treat sepsis
08/26/2020 // Virgilio Marin // Views

Vitamin C may help treat sepsis and prevent septic-related death, found a study published in the journal Chest.

The research tested on sepsis patients and found that treatment incorporating vitamin C can prevent organ failure -- the usual cause of death among sepsis patients. This finding represents a promising alternative to the standard medication for sepsis, one that is more affordable and may even be more effective.

“It is exceedingly cheap and has the potential to save thousands of lives,” said lead author Dr. Paul Marik, chief of pulmonary and critical care at Eastern Virginia Medical School.

Treatment using vitamin C saved septic patients

Sepsis occurs due to the body's abnormal response to an infection. This triggers a chain reaction that may damage organs and tissues, leading to septic shock. Septic shock is characterized by a dramatic drop in blood pressure levels. This is potentially deadly.

Sepsis is one of the leading causes of death in the hospital. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly 270,000 Americans die as a result of sepsis. Meanwhile, one in three patients who die in a hospital has sepsis.

It's also one of the costliest medical conditions in the United States. According to a recent report, hospitalizations for sepsis were over 18,000 dollars in 2013, which is 70 percent more expensive than an average stay. The condition is also the costliest hospital condition billed to Medicare, accounting for 8.2 percent of all Medicare costs incurred in 2013.


In the present study, the researchers proposed a more affordable treatment strategy that incorporates vitamin C. Dr. Marik said that he started using vitamin C for his sepsis patients after reviewing existing literature on the usage of vitamin C for treating sepsis. He tried it to a woman dying of septic shock and found that the patient significantly improved and fully recovered.

The team examined 47 septic patients who were treated with intravenous vitamin C over the course of seven months. The patients were administered 1,500 mg of the vitamin every six hours, along with thiamine and hydrocortisone. The researchers compared their outcomes to those of a control group who were sent to the ICU in the past seven months.

Only four in the experimental group died while 19 died in the control group. None of the patients in the experimental group developed organ failure. And the four casualties were due to underlying conditions, not sepsis.

Furthermore, all patients in the experimental group were able to be weaned off vasopressors -- blood-pressure medications -- within 24 hours of beginning the novel treatment. In contrast, the control group averaged 54 hours before they were weaned off vasopressors. (Related: Death by sepsis reduced by 87% with progressive vitamin C treatment.)

"Our results suggest that the early use of intravenous vitamin C, together with corticosteroids and thiamine, are effective in preventing progressive organ dysfunction," wrote the researchers.

Sepsis may be linked to vitamin C deficiency

Dr. Marik wrote an article with his colleague discussing the possible link between vitamin C-deficiency and sepsis. Vitamin-C deficiency is also known as scurvy. It manifests in various ways such as anemia, weakness, spontaneous bleeding, pain in the limbs and swelling in certain parts of the body.

In the article published in the journal Critical Care, the authors argued that 40 percent of septic shock patients have scurvy. They posited that these patients have serum levels of vitamin C that are at the medical threshold for the condition.

The other 60 percent likely have levels that are seriously low but are not sufficient to be clinically considered as scurvy. In addition, half of all ICU patients are found to have a shortfall in vitamin C regardless of whether they have sepsis.

While these assertions need further research, these findings illustrate the importance of vitamin C for health. Human beings do not naturally produce the nutrient. That means it has to be consumed from external sources such as food and supplements. To get enough vitamin C, experts recommend consuming 65 to 90 milligrams of vitamin C a day.

Learn more about the perils of vitamin-C deficiency at

Sources include:

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