A pandemic occurs about every 35 years. The last pandemic was in 1968. A report from Global Preparedness Monitoring Board in September 2019, which included Dr Anthony Fauci on the board, warned of a ‘very real threat’ of a pandemic sweeping the world, and lack of preparedness due to lack of political will.
Read the full report here:
The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) first appeared in December 2019, causing covid-19. It is notoriously difficult to produce a vaccine against coronavirus, for example, MERS still remaining largely uncontrolled.
SARS-CoV-2 is an atypical viral pneumonia. Antibiotics are of no use to treat viral pneumonia. Fatality rates are higher in older patients (>65 years) with underlying health conditions, this might be in part due to a decline in immune function that occurs with ageing, which typically involves the deterioration of both innate and acquired immune systems.
If a vaccine has yet to be found, what about other preventative measures- for example nutrition? The largest body of evidence related to immune function exists for vitamin C, D and zinc.
A systematic review and meta-analysis published in The BMJ in 2017, concluded that vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of acute respiratory infections. Since the start of the pandemic the review has been viewed online more than 300 000 times and shared more times on social media than any other research paper published in The BMJ in the past three years.
You can read the report here:
PHE updated its advice on vitamin D supplementation in April when it recommended that everyone should consider taking a daily 10 µg vitamin D supplement because lockdown meant that people might not get enough vitamin D from sunlight because of more time being spent indoors. It added that at that time there was not enough evidence to recommend vitamin D supplements specifically for reducing risk of covid-19.
However it is well known that even the most health conscious among us do not take enough vitamin supplements when we need to. Whether this is due to cost, access or lifestyle, remains to be teased out.
An article in The BMJ published this week (June 2020) states: ‘PHE especially recommend vitamin supplementation for people from black and minority ethnic (BAME) groups with dark skin, such as those of African, African-Caribbean, and South Asian origin, who require more sun exposure to make as much vitamin D. There have also been suggestions that vitamin D deficiency may explain why people of BAME backgrounds experience more adverse outcomes from covid-19’.
A national trial called COVIDENCE-19 is currently recruiting to see if vitamin D offers protection. You can sign up here.
National randomised controlled trials are also planned looking at the potential for different vitamin D supplementation strategies to reduce the risk of covid-19 so watch this space. In the meantime, we are off to Tesco to get our vitamin D tablets.