Essential Science: Vitamin D and aspirin for COVID-19 treatment

Posted Nov 2, 2020 by Tim Sandle
Scientists are continuing to explore why some people becoming sicker than others when infected with the coronavirus responsible for the 2020 pandemic. This includes looking at vitamin D and aspirin.
Pennsylvania Commonwealth microbiologist Kerry Pollard performs a manual extraction of the coronavir...
Pennsylvania Commonwealth microbiologist Kerry Pollard performs a manual extraction of the coronavirus inside the extraction lab at the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Laboratories on Friday, March 6, 2020.
governortomwolf (CC BY 2.0)
Why are some people more severely affected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus than others? Some of the broad categories have been widely reported, such as older individuals, men, those who have certain chronic conditions, and those from certain ethnic groups.
Overall, age appears to be the most significant predictor of outcome, according to a medical report published in the journal JAMA. This consisted of a review on the characteristics of 5,700 hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
In terms of males there is some geographical variation. For example, 70 percent of those who have died from the virus are men. There is a similar pattern in the U.S., albeit to a lower level where the deaths are biased 59 percent towards men.
A Swiss soldier (R) helps to move the bed of a COVID-19 patient  at the Pourtales Hospital in Neucha...
A Swiss soldier (R) helps to move the bed of a COVID-19 patient, at the Pourtales Hospital in Neuchatel on March 25, 2020, after Switzerland deployed its army reservists to relieve hospitals under pressure from the outbreak of COVID-19
Fabrice COFFRINI, AFP/File
The focus is not only with those who appear to suffer with more sever symptoms than others, for there is also a sizable number of people around the world living with so-called “long COVID”. This is manifest as a debilitating syndrome that follows a coronavirus infection and continues for a prolonged period of time.
Are these underlying factors social, cultural or biological? Are the effects the product of the immune system? Or perhaps genetics (some scientists are probing for genetic variations that might raise susceptibility, for example).
Two new areas of inquiry relate to vitamin D and aspirin. We take a look at these emergent research strands.
Vitamin D
Seeking to explore the atypical patterns, researchers have discovered that over 80 percent of COVID-19 patients have a vitamin D deficiency. Connecting with the earlier observations relating to severity, the study found that vitamin D deficiency is more prevalent in men.
Various vitamins in a bowl
Various vitamins in a bowl
bradley j (CC BY 2.0)
Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids responsible for increasing intestinal absorption of calcium, magnesium, and phosphate, and multiple other biological effects. The vitamin helps to keep teeth, bones and muscle healthy.
In addition, previous studies have demonstrated the beneficial effect of vitamin D on the immune system. It is thought that the deficiency means there is lower protection against infections, and this accounts for the wider concerns in relation to more severe COVID-19 infections.
While there was a connection between getting an infection and vitamin D deficiency, the researchers did not find any connection between vitamin D concentrations or vitamin deficiency and the severity of the disease.
The research is published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. The research paper is titled “Vitamin D Status in Hospitalized Patients With SARS-CoV-2 Infection.”
The interest in aspirin relates to the correlation between a reduced risk of death in hospitalized COVID-19 patients and those patients who were taking aspirin.
The study, which comes from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, found that hospitalized COVID-19 patients who were taking a daily low-dose aspirin, in order to protect against cardiovascular disease, showed a lower risk of complications and death. This when compared to patients who were not taking aspirin.
A significant body of research over the last decade has established a strong statistical link betwee...
A significant body of research over the last decade has established a strong statistical link between long-term aspirin use and a reduced incidence of different kinds of cancer
The findings showed how aspirin use was connected with a 44 percent reduction in the risk of being put on a mechanical ventilator. Furthermore, taking the drug was associated with a 43 percent decrease in the risk of ICU admission.
Of greatest significance was the finding there was a 47 percent decrease in the risk of dying in the hospital for those taking aspirin.
The reason is because of the likely effects of the blood thinning properties of aspirin which could provide benefits for COVID-19 patients by preventing microclot formation.
The research is published in the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia, with the paper titled “Aspirin Use is Associated with Decreased Mechanical Ventilation, ICU Admission, and In-Hospital Mortality in Hospitalized Patients with COVID-19.”
Essential Science
This article is the latest in Digital Journal’s Essential Science series. Each week we consider a topic of interest relating to each of the core fields in science, presenting an important subject in the form of a digestible read.
Climate change amplifies extreme weather like droughts  which create ideal conditions for wildfires
Climate change amplifies extreme weather like droughts, which create ideal conditions for wildfires
Samuel Corum, AFP/File
Last week, the topic was global heating. As climate change continues to cause the average temperature around the planet to rise, staying cooler in what are increasingly set to be long, dry, and hot summers presents a challenge. We examined three solutions.
The week before we took in how body of evidence in favour of face masks continues to grow and we considered a diverse array of different literature that looks at mask wearing in different contexts.