The results published on Tuesday conclude that the administration of a high dose of vitamin D within 72 hours of the Covid-19 diagnosis significantly reduces the risk of death.
Unveiled on Tuesday May 31, the results of the COVIT-TRIAL study published in the journal Plos Medicine come to record the effectiveness of vitamin D in limiting mortality during Covid-19 infection in the elderly.
“This result is important and consistent with what we knew about the anti-inflammatory effects of vitamin D, very significantly reducing the risk of death at 14 days, and clearly avoiding the inflammatory runaway,” wrote in a press release. Professor Cédric Annweiler, head of the geriatrics department at the University Hospital of Angers, behind the study.
A track considered from the start of the epidemic
From the start of the Covid-19 epidemic, the track of vitamin D appeared within the medical profession as a possible treatment to limit the effects of the infection. Cédric Annweiler thus remembers having, as early as March 2020, considered this possibility, due to the properties of the vitamin which were known at the time.
Synthesized in the human body from sunlight, vitamin D is renowned for its anti-inflammatory effects in infectious and cancerous diseases. More specifically, to enter the human body, Covid-19 uses the ACE2 protein, which it deregulates. However, vitamin D has the opposite effect. It regulates the expression of ACE2, and therefore limits the effects of Covid-19 in humans.
“This is why we quickly imagined, as early as March 2020, that vitamin D could help fight serious forms of Covid-19”, adds Professor Annweiler.
Study labeled “national research priority”
Launched in April 2020, the COVIT-TRIAL study, labeled a national research priority by the State, aimed to assess the effect on mortality of the administration of a high dose of vitamin D in patients with of Covid-19, but also to measure the safety of administering a large amount of vitamin.
To do this, 260 patients were followed between April and December 2020, in nine French hospitals. Those of Angers, Bordeaux, Limoges, Nantes, Nice, Saint-Étienne, Tours, Le Mans and Saumur, as well as nursing homes depending on these establishments.
The patients selected were either aged 65 and over with “unfavorable outcome criteria”, or patients aged 75 and over. All with Covid-19.
These volunteers were then divided into two groups. Those receiving a high dose of vitamin D within 72 hours of their diagnosis, and those receiving a normal dose. From the 6th day of treatment, the results were convincing. Doctors observed “a large and statistically significant reduction in the risk of death” in the group given a high dose of vitamin D.
The effect on mortality persists within 14 days, and this without adverse effects linked to the massive intake of vitamin D. It is only after 28 days that the effectiveness decreases.
A deficiency that can be considered a comorbidity
Results that lead to a clear conclusion. The study authors recommend the early administration of a high dose of vitamin D, described as “a simple and safe treatment” during a Covid-19 infection in the elderly. Especially since vitamin D also helps regulate cellular immunity.
More broadly, a vitamin D deficiency in a patient could constitute a co-morbidity in the face of Covid-19, in the same way as obesity. Except that unlike the latter, a vitamin D deficiency can be treated quickly. “Hypovitaminosis (deficiency, editor’s note) D is a risk factor very easily modifiable by simple drug supplementation”, specifies the press release of the study.
Results which constitute hope for the few thousand patients still hospitalized in France with Covid-19, 14,850 on June 1. “While the latest wave of the Covid-19 epidemic is running out of steam, hospitalizations of patients with Covid-19 – especially the elderly – have never stopped”, warns the press release.