Vitamin C improves survival rate in sepsis and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)

The body’s immune system works by protecting against disease and potentially damaging foreign bodies. In some instances, it may become impaired, leading to overreaction to infection.

Sepsis is a potentially fatal reaction to an infection. It occurs when the immune system overreacts to an infection. As a result, it damages the body’s tissues and organs. Without prompt treatment, it can rapidly lead to organ failure and death.

Meanwhile, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is also a life-threatening illness that progresses rapidly. It causes fluid to leak into the lungs, causing reduced oxygen distribution in the body. Though it’s treatable, it can cause respiratory failure.

These two conditions have one thing in common – they’re both potentially-fatal if not treated immediately and appropriately. Though there are known treatment options for the conditions, a new study highlights how a simple vitamin can help increase survival rates among patients with sepsis and ARDS.

Vitamin C shows promise for patients with sepsis, ARDS

Vitamin C, otherwise known as ascorbic acid, is an essential vitamin important for growth, development, and repair of many body tissues. It is also an antioxidant that wards off free radicals and oxidative stress. Vitamin C is involved in various body functions, including boosting the immune system, absorption of iron, wound healing, the formation of collagen, and the maintenance of the bones, teeth, and cartilage.

Image Credit: Gargonia / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Gargonia / Shutterstock

In a new study published in JAMA Network, a team of researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University found that the intravenous administration of high-dose vitamin C reduces organ failure scores, as well as the biomarkers of inflammation and vascular injury in patients with ARDS and sepsis.

Worldwide, sepsis affects more than 30 million every year, potentially leading to about 6 million deaths. Among newborns and infants, 3 million and 1.2 million suffer from sepsis, respectively. In the United States, sepsis causes 300,000 deaths each year. In patients with sepsis, acute lung injury is one of the major causes of death.

The researchers suggest that patients with sepsis and septic lung injury could benefit and have a better chance of survival if they receive vitamin C infusions promptly. In fact, they found that intravenous vitamin C injury decreased death rates in patients with sepsis from 46 percent in the control group who did not receive vitamin C infusions to just 30 percent in those who received the vitamin at day 28.

“This therapy could potentially transform the way we care for sepsis patients. We may have found a lifesaving therapy. While further research is needed, the results from our preliminary study are encouraging,” Dr. Alpha Fowler III, the executive director of the VCU Johnson Center for Critical Care and Pulmonary Research and professor in the Division of Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine at the VCU School of Medicine, said.

Vitamin C can help shorten hospital stay

Patients with sepsis may have organ failure, one of the dreaded complications of sepsis since it often leads to death. However, in patients who received vitamin C infusions, they had shorter hospital stays, reducing the risk of nosocomial infections and high hospital bills.

The researchers conducted the phase II clinical trial to see if Vitamin C is more efficiency for organ failure than the conventional care provided for patients with sepsis. Though the researchers weren’t able to see that vitamin C can improve organ failure, it markedly reduced how long the patients stayed in the hospital. It hints that vitamin C can help the patients recover faster.

Among the vitamin C group of patients, they spend three fewer days in the intensive care unit (ICU) and a week less in the hospital, compared to those who weren’t given vitamin C.

“Among patients with sepsis and ARDS, high-dose vitamin C infusion compared with placebo did not significantly reduce organ failure scores at 96 hours or improve biomarker levels at 168 hours,” the researchers concluded in the study.

The investigators recommend further research and clinical trials to see how vitamin C helps in the faster healing and recovery of patients with sepsis. Vitamin C has many health benefits, and it can be used on various health conditions, especially that it helps improve the immune system and accelerate wound healing.

Source:
Journal reference:

Fowler, A., Truwit. J., Hite, D., et al. (2019). Effect of Vitamin C Infusion on Organ Failure and Biomarkers of Inflammation and Vascular Injury in Patients With Sepsis and Severe Acute Respiratory Failure. JAMA Network. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2752063

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Written by

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Angela is a nurse by profession and a writer by heart. She graduated with honors (Cum Laude) for her Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Baguio, Philippines. She recently completed a Master's Degree where she specialized in Maternal and Child Nursing and is now working as a clinical instructor and educator in the School of Nursing at the University of Baguio.

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