Vitamin C for Covid-19 fight: Myth or truth

One has to consume vitamin C for Covid-19, which is naturally rich in vegetables and fruits. Body’s immune system relies directly on vitamin C for effective responses to pathogens and to minimize the damage. 
Vitamin C for Covid-19 fight: Myth or truth

In December 2019, Corona virus (2019-nCoV) was firstly found in Wuhan city of China and spread across the country. During early stages, symptoms of severe acute respiratory infection occurred.

Infected people show the symptoms of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), acute respiratory failure, and other serious complications.

Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had identified the coronavirus on January 7, 2020. Earlier they named it 2019 Novel Coronavirus, later, World Health Organization (WHO) officially named it as Covid-19.

Researchers reported that the virus is a beta corona virus and it has 96 percent of sequence identity with that of coronavirus found in bats.

Specifically named gene called “spike gene” of coronavirus has been shown playing a unique role in interspecies transmission. It is not yet clear whether Covid-19 infected humans via direct transmission from a bat or through intermediate hosts.

Following the emergence of SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, Covid-19 represents a 3rd major emergence of a novel coronavirus. It is now time to learn from the lessons of these two previous outbreaks to prevent the spread of further disease from Covid-19.

Diseases caused by coronavirus

Coronavirus itself is not new, it has other types and diseases this include; common cold, flu, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), and new strains (Covid-19) that are recently identified.

Signs and symptoms

The common sign and symptoms of Covid-19 are respiratory problems, high fever, dry coughing, organ function damage, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In certain cases, about 44 – 60 per cent fatigue is also a symptom along with other signs and symptoms.

Laboratory abnormalities

Clinical abnormalities found in Covid-19 patients are; leukopenia (63% of subjects), thrombocytopenia, low platelets count (45% of subjects), abnormalities in hepatic and muscle enzymes, abnormal C-reactive protein (CRP) and Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) rate, and prolonged prothrombin time (58% of subjects).

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WHO guidelines

Following are the guidelines issues by WHO to prevent Covid-19 spread:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Try to maintain social distance (minimum 3 feet from yourself to anyone who is sneezing or coughing
  • Avoid touching nose, eyes and mouth
  • Practice respiratory hygienic measures (covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze)
  • If you have cold fever, coughing and difficulty breathing, seek medical care
  • Stay informed and follow advice given by doctor

Mode of transmission

This virus is now spreading from person to person and animals are the basic source of this virus. It is estimated that an infected person further affects two to three more persons however we are lacking this epidemiological information that how this virus feasts between people.

This virus usually spreads because of the droplets that come out during sneezing, coughing and through the process of exhalation. However, coronavirus can survive for hours on different surfaces including door handles and tables.

The time between the contact with virus and beginning of the symptoms is the incubation period. According to the recent estimations, the incubation period for Covid-19 is two to fourteen days. This is the stage where virus can be transmitted through the person having flu like symptoms including cough.

There are possibilities that the virus can transmit from the person with no symptoms, however there are uncertainties regarding this mode of transmission.

The death rate due to Covid-19 is 3-5 per cent.

Covid-19 Worldwide

According to John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre, coronavirus has affected 192 countries and territories around the world and 1 international conveyance. There are 14,776 people who died, number of infected peoples is 343,414 cases, out of which 99,066 patients have recovered from this disease by afternoon March 23. But these figures are increasing rapidly.

Currently, Italy in Europe is the epi centre of Covid-19, where this virus has killed 5,476 people, whereas infected patients are 59,138.

Covid-19 Pakistan scenario

Pakistan has also been affected with corona virus for last week. There is an increase in numbers of suspected disease cases daily. Province Sindh has highest cases of this disease than Punjab, Baluchistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and Islamabad respectively.

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According to National Institute of Health, Islamabad following are details of coronavirus cases in Pakistan, as on afternoon March 23, 2020.

Total confirmed cases 804
Total deaths due to Covid-19 06
Sindh province 352
Punjab province 225
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province 32
Baluchistan province 108
Islamabad Capital Territory 15
Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK 72

Diagnosis of coronavirus

Bronchoalveolar-lavage fluid specimen is collected from infected patient while it took as a control group. High Pure Viral Nucleic Acid Kit is used for extraction of nucleic acid from collected samples. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is used for testing extracted nucleic acid. Respifinder Smart 22 kit and the Light Cycler 480 real-time PCR system are used in PCR for testing bacteria or virus in samples.

Samples are analyzed for 22 pathogens (18 viruses and 4 bacteria). Unbiased, high throughout sequencing is used to discover microbial sequences. A real-time reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR) assay has been used for detection of viral RNA by targeting a consensus RdRp region of pan beta coronavirus.   

vitamin C for Covid-19 effects on patients

Literature confirms the antiviral effects of vitamin C when taken in sufficient amounts. Influenza was treated with very high doses of vitamin C a few decades ago. Vitamin C if taken frequently will definitely benefit the person’s tolerance of bowel.

Vitamin C is also given intravenously in critical situation. Vitamin C supplementation in cold can reduce the duration of illness up-to 8 per cent in adults and in children up-to 14 per cent. People who are used to take vitamin C are less prone to have a cold.

Scientists are testing whether vitamin C helps in alleviation of Covid-19 symptoms and to improve the outcomes of patients when given in high dose. Some researchers at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, China carried out a clinical trial in February with 140 patients to test the effect of high doses of vitamin C on viral infection and this vitamin C is given intravenously to the patients.

The infusion swill be given to patients twice a day for seven days and each infusion contain 12g of vitamin C while 90 mg is the daily recommendation for an adult man.

No results for this trial are available as the trial will be completed in September 2020.

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How vitamin C works

  • Vitamin C neutralizes free radicals (that are produced by the body’s normal metabolism) while acting as antioxidant
  • It activates various key enzymes in the body which control the cardiovascular system’s responses to infections
  • Vitamin C also protects the lungs from pathogens by boosting the fatty membranes in connective tissues and skin
  • Vitamin C also helps neutrophils to reach the site of infection and assist these cells against free radicals

Body’s immune system relies directly on vitamin C for effective responses to pathogens and to minimize the damage. This is why, the response of vitamin C for Covid-19 patient treatment is highly important.

Vitamin C cannot be synthesized in body and also its storage is not possible in body because the water-soluble vitamins are excreted from the body once ingested. One has to consume vitamin C rich vegetables and fruits to meet the daily requirements.

The recommended dose of vitamin C depends on gender, age and the health status. For an adult man, 90 mg is recommended while and adult woman can consume about 75 mg of vitamin C daily. Smokers should add 35 mg additional vitamin C because vitamin C depletes due to smoking, according to National Institute of Health, USA (NIH).

Conclusion

Covid-19 is a global epidemic which affected 192 countries up-to now and is spreading in each part of the world day by day. Probably bats were the basic source for the transmission of this virus, which was identified in January 2020, one month after the report of first ever case in China.

The specific medicines and vaccines are not yet available for this epidemic, but this could be prevented by adapting some preventive measures. Vitamin C intake is the basic element to empower the immune system. However further research is required to explore the role of vitamin C for Covid-19 deadly virus.

This article is jointly written by Dr. Sabahat Amin and Waqar Iqbal. Dr Sabahat is a Researcher on Human Nutrition and Dietetics, Faculty of Food, Nutrition and Home Sciences, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. Waqar is a Graduate scholar on Animal Nutrition, Faculty of Animal Husbandry, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.

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