Monday, May 18, 2020

Correlation found to Vitamin D Levels and Covid-19 Mortality

From a Northwestern News Release:

Northwestern University Engineering research team lead by Dr. Vadioum Backman conducted a statistical analysis of data from hospitals and clinics across China, France, Germany, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They found a correlation between low vitamin D levels and mortality rates.

Dr. Backman is the Walter Dill Scott Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern Engineering. Ali Daneshkhah, a postdoctoral research associate in Backman’s laboratory, is the paper’s first author.

Dr. Backman and his team were inspired to examine vitamin D levels after noticing unexplained differences in COVID-19 mortality rates from country to country. Though some hypothesized that differences in healthcare quality, age distributions in population, testing rates or different strains of the coronavirus might be responsible, Dr. Backman d did not believe any of those factors played a significant role.

The scientists noted that patients from countries with high COVID-19 mortality rates, such as Italy, Spain and the UK, had lower levels of vitamin D compared to patients in countries that were not as severely affected. The scientists assumed that vitamin D levels in COVID-19 patients follow the same distribution that the subjects in previous vitamin D studies had shown. The vitamin D levels of covid-19 patients were not measured.

By analyzing publicly available patient data from around the globe, Backman and his team discovered a strong correlation between population vitamin D levels and cytokine storm — a hyperinflammatory condition caused by an overactive immune system — as well as a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and mortality. “Cytokine storm can severely damage lungs and lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome and death in patients,” Dr. Ali Daneshkhah said. “This is what seems to kill a majority of COVID-19 patients, not the destruction of the lungs by the virus itself. It is the complications from the misdirected fire from the immune system.”

This may be where vitamin D plays a major role. Not only does vitamin D enhance our innate immune systems, it also prevents our immune systems from becoming dangerously overactive. This means that having healthy levels of vitamin D could protect patients against severe complications, including death, from COVID-19.

While vitamin D deficiency might play a role in mortality, this needs further study. The engineers hope their work will stimulate interest in the area. Dr. Backman was careful to point out that people should not take excessive doses of vitamin D, which might come with negative side effects. Much more research is needed to know how vitamin D could be used most effectively to protect against COVID-19 complications. The paper has not yet been peer reviewed, but can be read in its entirety at medRxiv.

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