The importance of vitamin d metabolism as a potential prophylactic, immunoregulatory and neuroprotective treatment for COVID-19

Interesting Review published in J Transl Med 18, 322 (2020)

Abstract

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to a declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization. As of May 18, 2020, there have been more than 4.7 million cases and over 316,000 deaths worldwide. COVID-19 is caused by a highly infectious novel coronavirus known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), leading to an acute infectious disease with mild-to-severe clinical symptoms such as flu-like symptoms, fever, headache, dry cough, muscle pain, loss of smell and taste, increased shortness of breath, bilateral viral pneumonia, conjunctivitis, acute respiratory distress syndromes, respiratory failure, cytokine release syndrome (CRS), sepsis, etc. While physicians and scientists have yet to discover a treatment, it is imperative that we urgently address 2 questions: how to prevent infection in immunologically naive individuals and how to treat severe symptoms such as CRS, acute respiratory failure, and the loss of somatosensation. Previous studies from the 1918 influenza pandemic have suggested vitamin D’s non-classical role in reducing lethal pneumonia and case fatality rates. Recent clinical trials also reported that vitamin D supplementation can reduce incidence of acute respiratory infection and the severity of respiratory tract diseases in adults and children. According to our literature search, there are no similar findings of clinical trials that have been published as of July 1st, 2020, in relation to the supplementation of vitamin D in the potential prevention and treatment for COVID-19. In this review, we summarize the potential role of vitamin D extra-renal metabolism in the prevention and treatment of the SARS-CoV-2 infection, helping to bring us slightly closer to fulfilling that goal. We will focus on 3 major topics here:

  1. 1.

    Vitamin D might aid in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection:

    • Vitamin D: Overview of Renal and Extra-renal metabolism and regulation.

    • Vitamin D: Overview of molecular mechanism and multifaceted functions beyond skeletal homeostasis.

    • Vitamin D: Overview of local immunomodulation in human infectious diseases.

      • Anti-viral infection.

      • Anti-malaria and anti-systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

  2. 2.

    Vitamin D might act as a strong immunosuppressant inhibiting cytokine release syndrome in COVID-19:

    • Vitamin D: Suppression of key pro-inflammatory pathways including nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor (TNF).

  3. 3.

    Vitamin D might prevent loss of neural sensation in COVID-19 by stimulating expression of neurotrophins like Nerve Growth Factor (NGF):

    • Vitamin D: Induction of key neurotrophic factors.

Giovambattista Scarfone

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