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article imageConnection between low vitamin D and COVID-19 severity

By Tim Sandle     May 12, 2020 in Science
A new study has been looking at patients with low vitamin D levels and COVID-19 severity levels. The data suggests that there is a connection, although other factors need to be accounted for.
The research area, examined by scientists based at Northwestern University, is with the role that vitamin D levels could play role in COVID-19 mortality rates. The initial findings suggest that patients with what is classed as a severe deficiency have been shown to be twice as likely to experience major complications arising from COVID-19.
Vitamin D refers to a group of fat-soluble secosteroids (a type of steroid), which are responsible for increasing intestinal absorption of calcium, magnesium, and phosphate. Most people can obtain all of the vitamin D they need from sunlight. Foods rich in vitamin D include oily fish and egg yolks.
The findings are based on a review of epidemiological data drawn from ten countries. Analysing these data, the researchers found a correlation between very low vitamin D levels and hyperactive immune systems. Vitamin D metabolizing enzymes and vitamin D receptors are present in many human cell types including various immune cells like antigen-presenting-cells, T cells, B cells and monocytes. The reason why this is important is because vitamin D is associated with stronger innate immunity. Through this, a more robust innate immunity can minimize overactive immune responses.
Then concern, according to lead researcher Dr. Vadim Backman, is with a 'cytokine storm'. With this he explains: "Cytokine storm can severely damage lungs and lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome and death in patients...This is what seems to kill a majority of COVID-19 patients, not the destruction of the lungs by the virus itself."
Moreover, the research could provide the answer as to why COVID-19 symptoms in children are far less severe compared with many adults.
What the research is not suggesting, however, is that people need to take vitamin D supplements or seek to take excess vitamin D. The research can only consider severe cases of vitamin D deficiency; with the normal population, vitamin D deficiency rates vary but they do not amount to the majority of people.
The research paper has been published as a pre-print in medRxiv, and it is titled "The Possible Role of Vitamin D in Suppressing Cytokine Storm and Associated Mortality in COVID-19 Patients."
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