After several studies linked high vitamin D supplementation with reduced Covid-19 effects, now researchers from Penn State University in the US, to study whether vitamin D could help people ward off or reduce symptoms caused by coronavirus.
The research team, including one of Indian-origin, have received nearly $241,000 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research on how vitamin D regulates the immune system in the gastrointestinal tract.
Two key collaborators of the study are -virologist Troy Sutton and Girish Kirimanjiswara, associate professor whose research focuses on immunology and infectious diseases.
Patients with acute respiratory infections have been shown to be vitamin D deficient, and vitamin D supplements have been touted as being useful in high doses for preventing seasonal influenza. .
"Meanwhile, the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 has generated interest in the potential of high-dose vitamin D supplements to prevent and treat severe disease associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.
The research group has shown that vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining health in the gastrointestinal tract.
Higher levels of vitamin D reduce susceptibility to inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn's disease, as well as gut and lung infections in animals and people.
However, too much vitamin D can be harmful.
The local and systemic inflammation caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection is not well understood, and controlling such inflammation may improve outcomes for Covid-19 patients.
Although low vitamin D status has been associated with acute respiratory diseases, research has not confirmed a causal relationship.
"We don't yet fully understand the mechanisms underlying the effects of vitamin D in the lung or how vitamin D regulates host immunity to viral infection," said sources..
"These significant knowledge gaps have hindered the development of interventions and accurate messaging that include vitamin D for the treatment and prevention of respiratory disease," explained sources .
Using mouse and hamster models, the research team will test whether supplemental vitamin D treatments will limit viral replication and inflammation in the lung leading to protection against severe SARS-CoV-2 infection.
"We plan to determine the effects, dose and timing of possible vitamin D interventions in infected animals," sources said.
"Because SARS-CoV-2 has been shown to infect the gastrointestinal tract, the benefits of vitamin D might include regulation of gastrointestinal immunity as well as lung immunity," said the sources.