Vitamin D may ‘turn off’ pneumonia – Community News
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Vitamin D may ‘turn off’ pneumonia

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Scientists have found that some form of vitamin D may help reduce pneumonia in COVID-19. Zoonar RF/Getty Images
  • A special form of vitamin D — not available over the counter (OTC) — may be able to fight pneumonia caused by immune cells, a new study suggests.
  • The research shows that vitamin D has a “shutdown mechanism” for inflammation, which could work in severe COVID-19.
  • However, clinical trials are needed before using vitamin D to treat COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses.
  • The researchers warn against people taking more than the recommended amount of vitamin D in hopes of preventing COVID-19 infection.

Scientists share insight into how vitamin D can help with severe COVID-19 cases by revealing how the vitamin functions to reduce hyperinflammation caused by immune cells.

A new joint study by Purdue University and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows how an active metabolite of vitamin D — not a form sold OTC — is involved in “turning off” inflammation in the body during infections like COVID -19.

“Since inflammation is a major driver of morbidity and mortality in severe cases of COVID-19, we decided to take a closer look at lung cells from COVID-19 patients,” said lead authors Dr. Behdad (Ben) Afzali, chief of the Division of Immunoregulation at the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and Dr. Majid Kazemian, assistant professor of biochemistry and computer science at Purdue University.

The study appears in the journal Nature Immunology.

As part of the study, researchers analyzed individual lung cells from eight people with COVID-19.

They found that in these cells, part of the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — went into overdrive, exacerbating inflammation in the lungs.

After administering vitamin D in test-tube experiments, they saw reduced lung cell inflammation.

They then delved further into how the vitamin achieved this.

They did this by turning to helper T cells — also known as CD4+ cells — a type of immune cell that stimulates the “killer” T cells and other white blood cells to mount an immune response.

T cells are known to play a role in severe and dangerous cases of COVID-19 by going into overdrive and leading to an often fatal phenomenon known as a cytokine storm.

Normal vs. COVID-19 Infection

The scientists found that in normal infections, Th1 cells, a subset of helper T cells that fight microbes in the cell, go through a pro-inflammatory phase. During this phase, the body clears up the infection.

Shortly after, the system shuts down to enter the anti-inflammatory phase.

The scientists found that vitamin D is the key to speeding up this transition.

“We found that in healthy T cells, activation of the inflammatory gene program coincided with activation of a vitamin D system in these cells. So we researched how this vitamin D system works and what it does for healthy T cells before trying to bring it back to COVID-19,” said Dr. Afzali and Dr. Kazemian. Medical news today.

While the scientists saw in COVID-19 infections that the pro-inflammatory phase of Th1 cells did not shut down. They attributed this to a vitamin D deficiency or an abnormality in the cell’s response to vitamin D.

“As expected, by studying which genes were ‘turned on’ in the immune cells of the lungs of eight patients, we found that their cells were in an inflammatory state,” the co-authors said.

dr. Afzali and Dr. Kazemian said they were somewhat surprised to identify the intracellular vitamin D system.

“[T]It has traditionally been thought that vitamin D depends on the kidneys to activate it before it becomes functional. We found that T cells had a self-contained system to both fully activate and respond to vitamin D, independent of the kidneys,” they said.

The researchers hypothesized that adding a highly concentrated intravenous vitamin D metabolite to existing treatments could further help people recover from COVID-19. But they haven’t tested this theory in clinical trials yet.

Last studies link the ability of vitamin D to reduce T cell-induced inflammation and the severity of COVID-19.

But the authors emphasize that people should not view these results as a treatment recommendation, and much more work is needed.

“[I]It is critical to note that this study did not test vitamin D treatment in humans, but analyzed lung cells from eight people with severe COVID-19,” said Dr. Afzali and Dr. Kazemian.

“The results, while interesting, should not be taken to indicate that vitamin D is beneficial for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 or that it is a substitute for other preventive and effective means of COVID-19 prevention, including vaccines. , masks, and social distancing.”

– dr. Ben Afzali and Dr. Majid Kazemian

dr. Donald J. Alcendor, an associate professor of pathology, microbiology and immunology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said the study offered clues to a possible mechanism that needs to be validated more widely.

“The general public widely believes that taking megadoses of vitamin D can protect you before or after testing positive for COVID-19. The science supporting these claims is still evolving and will require a large-scale clinical control trial in the future. In fact, the mechanism for the influence of vitamin D on COVID-19 is still unknown,” he said.

dr. Alcendor said that while vitamin D is known to have immune-modulating functions, it does not justify its use as a protective measure against COVID-19 infection, especially if one ignores measures to limit COVID-19.

He warned that trying to take higher doses of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D could be problematic for some people.

“A regular diet with a daily generic multivitamin will provide you with the necessary vitamin D you need,” he said.

The study suggests that vitamin D could be a therapeutic option for COVID-19 thanks to its role in hyperinflammation.

“This study reveals a potentially unique role that vitamin D plays in the activation of T-cell functions that regulate inflammation in COVID-19, and understanding these regulatory pathways could provide information that will lead to the development of new therapies to treat acute COVID-19,” said Dr Alcendor.

“This important finding could lead to the development of new therapies for multiple respiratory viruses. The potential for this research could be groundbreaking.”

– dr. Donald Alcendor

dr. Kazemian and Dr. Afzali argue that we will have to wait for clinical trials for results.

“There are a number of clinical trials actively studying the potential of vitamin D as an adjunct therapy for the treatment of COVID-19. When these studies report, we will have a much better idea of ​​the therapeutic role vitamin D could play in inflammation caused by COVID-19,” they said.

dr. However, Alcendor said future research should answer a slew of questions:

“[I]Is this mechanism specific to COVID-19, or does it also apply to other respiratory infections? If this study were done with samples from flu patients, would you get a similar result? Could this important finding provide information that could lead to new therapies for multiple respiratory viruses?”

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