Treating Covid-19 patients with high dosages of vitamin D could prevent them having to receive intensive care treatment, a study by Spanish researchers suggests.  

In the study, researchers from the University of Cordoba in Spain and Research University KU Leuven in Belgium monitored 76 hospital patients with Covid-19. 

The Spanish team wanted to test a theory that activating the vitamin D receptor signalling pathway may help patients’ respiratory response by decreasing the ‘cytokine storm’, a dangerous overraction of the body’s immune system and common, sometimes fatal, complication of Covid-19. 

All of the patients in the trial received current ‘best available therapy’, including a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. 50 of the hospitalised patients were additionally given 100 micrograms of calcifediol (a form of vitamin D) over the course of a week, with 55mg on the first day and then two booster doses of 27mg on days three and seven.

Of the 50 patients treated with calcifediol, just one required admission to the ICU (2%). But of the 26 untreated patients in the control group half (13%) needed to be taken into ICU, and two died. Of the patients treated with calcifediol, none died, and all were discharged, without complications. 

The study team write: “…calcifediol significantly decreased the need for ICU admission in COVID-19 patients in a way not previously reported. From a mechanistic perspective there are good reasons to postulate that vitamin D endocrine system favourably modulates host responses to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), both in the later hyperinflammatory and early viraemic phases of COVID-19.”

Commenting on the form of vitamin D chosen for the study, Professor Jose Manuel Quesada Gómez, one of the lead authors, told ThePrint: ‘Vitamin D3 is converted by the liver into calcifediol. However, by directly administering calcifediol instead of vitamin D3, levels of the hormone in the blood are rapidly restored. It also has a more reliable intestinal absorption. This means the calcifediol is more likely to be absorbed by the body than vitamin D3.’

Some scientists have pointed out that the study is very small, which could have skewed results, and that it does not distinguish between comorbidities when it is known that certain pre-existing conditions are strongly linked to poor Covid outcomes. 

The Spanish study adds to earlier research suggesting that vitamin D may help prime the body’s defences against coronavirus.

Photo by Javier Matheu on Unsplash