What is COVID-19?
Coronavirus is referred to as a novel cause for viral pneumonia because it's a virus we haven't seen before and have developed no immunity to. SARS and MEARS are coronaviruses too -- just not as contagious because they still hadn't figured out how to get themselves spread around before their host is sickened and immobilized. A virus has to try to extend the incubation period for as long as possible -- 1-2 weeks is perfect -- so that it can spread from an asymptomatic person before making that victim sick enough to self-quarantine. COVID-19 has the respiratory complication of SARS and MEARS but has the 1-2 week incubation period that SARS and MEARS only wish they had. This is why COVID-19 is the pandemic, while the other coronaviruses have stayed largely regional in their impact.
The coronaviruses (CoVs) are emerging as major pathogens of respiratory disease outbreaks. They are a large family of RNA viruses that can be isolated in different animal species. Many viruses can't cross species barriers and cause disease in humans, but CoV's can. MEARS probably originated from the dromedary camel, and SARS likely moved to human hosts from the Himalayan palm civet, a bat. The animal origin of COVID-19 is unknown as of yet.
The differentiation of these viruses as RNA viruses also matters, because RNA viruses are able to mutate faster than DNA viruses -- up to one mutation per replication cycle. With mutation, they can add additional information that will help them become more effective in spreading -- like increasing the incubation period, or extending the time of illness so that hosts get into more contact with other hosts before they die or self-quarantine.
As viral infections sweep through our communities, it may feel like it is virtually impossible to avoid infection. Gloves and masks are in short supply, and after breathing into a mask for 15 minutes, the humidity in the breath will reduce the value of the mask dramatically. Visit the link below to see more information regarding particle retention in surgical masks.
While wearing gloves and handwashing is helpful, viral particles can also live on inanimate objects like doorknobs and tables for up to nine days. Visit the link below to learn more about how everyday objects can be some of the biggest culprits in spreading COVID-19.
What Happens If You Get Infected and What Can Help?
Exposure to viruses seems inevitable. After exposure, the extent of the infection is largely determined by the individual person's response to the viral infection. Some of this is determined by genetics and the overall state of your health. Regardless of the shape you're in at this moment, there may be ways you can prepare and protect your body from developing a more severe response to infection. Explore the solutions below!
Current farming practices have focused on increasing the rapids growth of plants, and not on the nutritional content of the food. Farmers are replacing nitrogen and phosphates in the soil but not worrying about ever-decreasing soil concentration of trace minerals. Some of these trace minerals have been well studied in the area of inflammation and response to infection. It's estimated that 2 billion people worldwide are currently suffering from micronutrient deficiencies. Viral and bacterial infections are often associated with deficiencies in micronutrients. Surprisingly small changes in the amounts of certain trace minerals in the body make a huge impact on the strength of the immune system.
Supplementation with selenium results in changes in the gene expression that is required for protein biosynthesis in lymphocytes, the infection-fighting cells that are crucial to the immune system being able to identify infection and mount an immune response. T lymphocytes are referred to as "presenter" cells, or cells that prepare a virus or bacteria for the immune system and literally present it so that other immune cells can start to create antibodies to it. Cells of the immune system express most of the 25 genes encoding human selenoproteins, with GPx1 and GPx4 showing the highest expression in T lymphocytes.
Supplementation with selenium increased gene expression of GPx4 in isolated blood T lymphocytes.
In selenium deficiency, benign strains of the influenza virus can mutate to highly pathogenic strains. Dietary supplements of selenium have been studied with viral infection with HIV and influenza. It's even been found to improve several clinical and lifestyle variables in people who are dealing with both HIV and tuberculosis. Because selenium promotes the growth and differentiation of T lymphocytes, it may improve the immune response to acute infection. Excessive response to infection is decreased by selenium because the damage is counteracted by directing other infection-fighting cells, the macrophages, toward a less inflammatory behavior. Selenium has also been studied in other viral infections of hepatitis C, poliovirus and West Nile Virus. Data supporting selenium supplementation in acute viral infection has been obtained from epidemiologic studies and from trials where selenium is added in combination or alone with other micronutrients.
Compared to DNA viruses, the genome of RNA viruses like coronavirus is more prone to genetic mutation, because the proofreading activity is lacking in the replication. These RNA viruses exhibit the highest known mutation rates, mutating up to once per generation cycle. Selenium deficiency increases the risk of mutation, increasing the pathogenicity of the virus and severity of infection -- not only in coronaviruses but also in influenza and coxsackie. Selenium is not only important in boosting the immunity of the individual but also to slow the development of more virulent strains of some viral pathogens.
CBD's impact on immunity has been studied in animal models. CBD may suppress the productions of cytokines in the setting of infection. Cytokines are the chemicals produced during infections that lead to fever, body aches, and mucous production. Mice that were pretreated with CBD and then exposed to the flu virus reduced their cytokine production by 87% in one study. Treatment with CBD in this model reduced the viral infection impact and allowed the mice to continue to stay healthier and productive despite being acutely virally infected. Learn more about how CBD helps fight against viral symptoms at the links below.
18 studies reviewing 2004 patients have been performed to look at the effects of ICU on critically ill patients. In three studies, vitamin C administration decreased the duration of respiratory failure and the time spent on the ventilator by 18.2%. Vitamin C improves endothelial function, lowers blood pressure, increased the contractility of the heart, decreased irregular heart rhythms, decreased blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics, decreased bronchoconstriction, shortened the duration and frequency of a cold, and even protects kidneys from injury due to contrast injected during imaging procedures, like CT scans.
Vitamin C supplementation also decreased the need for blood pressure supporting medication like dobutamine and vasopressin and decreased fluid requirements in critically ill patients, in addition to decreasing the time spent on the ventilator for patients in respiratory failure.
In conditions where the body is under stress, such as surgery or infection, vitamin C metabolism is changed and vitamin C levels can decline dramatically. Much higher doses are often needed in critically ill patients to increase plasma vitamin C levels to the normal range. The highest vitamin C levels in the body are found in the adrenal gland and the brain. In the adrenal gland, vitamin C supports healthy responses to stress, since much of the stress response is produced through the HPA axis. In the nervous system, supplementation with vitamin C improves the mood of acutely ill patients and may have additional psychological benefits for critically ill patients in the ICU.
Vitamin C also enhances T-cell function. T-cell development is upregulated by vitamin C because of vitamin C, probably due to an epigenetic demethylation by vitamin C dependent iron and 2-oxoglutarate-dependent dioxygenases. The effect of vitamin C on inflammation and free radical development in the cell helps to promote T cell production. In the laboratory, T-cell production and maturation and function depend of vitamin C through the epigenetic effects on gene expression. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 19, 2054–2067.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so it is not stored in body fats -- the supply of vitamin C must be continually replenished. It has a variety of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and vascular effects. In the general population, the overall presence of deficiency is around 7.1%, but in the hospitalized population, the deficiency rate is about 47.3%. Levels are especially decreased in severe illness.
Even though supplementation with Vitamin C has proven effects on many conditions, it's likely that many essential vitamin and mineral deficiencies contribute to the severity of illness, including selenium and vitamin D, and possibly magnesium and thiamine, to name a few.
Zinc supplementation is well studied in the setting of a common cold. Colds are one of the most widespread illnesses and are the leading cause of visits to the doctor and absence from work. Viral infection can be complicated by sinus congestion, worsening asthma symptoms, or respiratory failure in susceptible patients.
1781 patients have been studied in 18 trials regarding the intake of zinc in the setting of acute illness. Zinc ingestion started within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms was associated with a reduction in the duration but not the severity of the common cold, most of which are due to rhinovirus. The percentage of people who are still sick after seven days of treatment was significantly smaller, and the zinc-treated people had fewer school absences, less prescribed antibiotics, and developed fewer colds. Unfortunately, zinc ingestion can lead to side effects of bad taste and nausea. It appears best to use this product throughout a cold.
It's likely that zinc interacts with the immune system by changing the flow of the electrons in the nose and mouth. The positively charged metal ions, such as ionic zinc, may attach to receptor sites used by viruses in the nose and mouth. Viruses attach to the lining of the nose via the intracellular adhesion molecule-1 receptor. The zinc ion may attach to the ICAM-l receptor in the nose and mouth, preventing viruses from attaching and infecting. In addition, zinc inhibits the replication of the virus by preventing the formation of viral capsid proteins. Zinc may also help to stabilize cell membranes and prevent histamine and prostaglandin production in infected cells.
Recent studies have demonstrated that vitamin D receptors are present on all immune cells. It's likely that Vitamin D has the capacity to help with infection control and modify the immune system's response to infection. Immune cells also express 1α-hydroxylase CYP27B1, an enzyme that converts inactive vitamin D to active form. Antiviral effects of vitamin D may be also supported by the production of cathelicidin, and antimicrobial protein produced by macrophages that has direct antiviral effects against influenza. Cathelicidin inhibits viral replication at the early intracellular life cycle of the virus. It also modulates the immune system effects via interaction with several receptors in the immune cells, inclugin CXCR4 and MAPK in the immune cells, which are responsible for cellular life spans, or apoptosis.
Vitamin D also works in T-cell response. It shifts T cells behavior from Ta to Th2-mediated response, and reduces inflammation by regulating T cell behavior. Vitamin D may be an important immune response regulator, especially in the setting of acute infection. Vitamin D also activates macrophage NADPH and NOX, which helps increase reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. These shifts overall decrease the levels of inflammatory cytokines like IL-10, IL-6, IL-2, CRP, IFNγ, and TNFα and may help protect against cytokine storm. Vitamin D has shown antiviral effects in HIV and influenza. Vitamin D is easy to measure in blood tests. Cathelicidin levels are almost impossible to measure, since it is rapidly bound to negatively charged particles in the blood, so it is unavailable for quantification. It is difficult to demonstrate a vitamin D associated increase in serum cathelicidin levels, so most people try to assess vitamin D levels and assume that the cathelicidin levels are similar.
Mary Clifton M.D. NYC Based CBD and Cannabis Expert