A 40-year-old man who suffering the extreme effects of COVID-19, including kidney failure and plummeting blood pressure as his body began to succumb to sepsis, has been saved by a mega-dose of Vitamin C that was equivalent to ingesting 5000 oranges.
Doctors at Melbourne’s Auston Health hospital administered a radical and life-saving dose of Vitamin C 60 times stronger than over-the-counter supplements that helped the man make a “remarkable” recovery.
The mega-dose of Vitamin C had only previously been trialled on animals but doctors believed the man was in such jeopardy that they gave him a version of the treatment approved for use on humans.
Sepsis is the most common cause of death in intensive care units and a common cause of death for people gravely ill with COVID-19. There are no treatments available that reverse the effects of sepsis.
The man was given an initial dose of 30 grams of sodium ascorbate (vitamin C) over 30 minutes, then a maintenance dose of 30 grams over six and a half hours.
Austin Health Professor Rinaldo Bellomo said the results were extraordinary, normalising the patients’ blood pressure and enabling the man to be taken off ventilation within 12 days of starting the treatment.
The antioxidant treatment developed by Professor Clive May and Dr Yugeesh Lankadeva at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Melbourne, Australia, has been many in the making for many years.
“We started trialling intravenous delivery of a mega-dose of sodium ascorbate, the sodium salt of vitamin C, in a large animal study earlier this year and the results were quite remarkable,” said Professor Clive May.
“We observed a rapid improvement in the clinical state and in measures including reduced temperature and improved heart, kidney, lung and liver function, with no adverse effects. Essentially, we were witnessing a reversal of sepsis-induced multi-organ failure,” says Professor May.
When Professor May, Dr Lankadeva and collaborator Professor Rinaldo Bellomo, Director of Intensive Care Research at Austin Health in Melbourne became aware of growing reports of multi-organ failure in COVID-19 cases they pivoted their efforts to investigate how their newly developed regime may be able to help critically-ill patients with the COVID-19.
“Like most people in the medical research community, we felt an obligation to help in whatever way we can,” says Dr Yugeesh Lankadeva.
“We had a newly developed treatment regime on our hands which was showing impressive results in reversing multi-organ failure in another clinically-challenging area, sepsis-induced multi-organ failure. We thought that if there was a chance it could also be used to keep COVID-19 patients alive until a vaccine is found then we have to try,” Dr Lankadeva says.
The team worked swiftly to accelerate a treatment protocol for use in humans. The regime was approved In April to compassionately treat a critically ill COVID-19 patient receiving intensive care at Austin Health who was ventilated and experiencing hypotension (low blood pressure), acute respiratory distress and acute kidney dysfunction.
“In a short period of time, we saw improved regulation of blood pressure, arterial blood oxygen levels and kidney function. The patient was able to be taken off machine ventilation 12 days after starting sodium ascorbate treatment and discharged from the hospital without any complications 22 days later,” says Professor Bellomo.
The research informed the design and commencement of a pilot randomised controlled clinical trial recently commenced at Austin Health to investigate the safety and efficacy of the mega-dose of sodium ascorbate for intensive care patients with septic shock.
The trial will collect blood samples from patients which will be investigated at the Florey Institute for Neuroscience and Mental Health to assess immune responses and blood vitamin C levels before, during and after treatment with either sodium ascorbate or a placebo.
Dr Lankadeva explains: “In our work at the Florey Institute we are now establishing the optimal dose and treatment duration of sodium ascorbate that could be used by clinicians in a hospital intensive care setting as a potentially life-saving option for patients with sepsis-induced multi-organ failure.”
“Having the results of our research move into a clinical trial shows that every dollar invested in medical research is vitally important. We’re proud that our efforts have contributed to the fight against sepsis and could not have foreseen that our work, which has been many years in development, could now also be now applied to critically ill patients with COVID-19,” says Professor May.