MUSC: Could Vitamin D and COVID-19 be linked?

Charleston County News

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) — Doctors at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) are researching the correlation between Vitamin D and COVID-19. The study will sample high-risk individuals with low levels of vitamin D, who also had increased severity of COVID-19 infection and worse clinical outcomes.

An MUSC Professor Emeritus in the Department of Pediatrics and an expert in Vitamin D, Dr. Bruce Hollis, will lead the research study investigating the relationship between Vitamin D and COVID-19.

“I haven’t had a cold or flu in 10 years,” Dr. Hollis said.

Not only does Dr. Bruce Hollis take 6000 units of vitamins a day to build his immune system, but he’s also studied Vitamin D for 40 years.

“It produces these antibacterial antiviral peptides that actually attack the virus and destroy it in bacteria as well, but in this case a virus,” Hollis said.

He and a colleague, Dr. Carol Wagner, are leading a research study made of about 15 people, including physicians and study coordinators. The team will investigate the relationship between
Vitamin D and the deficiency found in African-Americans and older population COVID-19 patients.

A recent medical study Hollis found out of Michigan showed African-Americans were affected disproportionately across the board.

“Some of the worst outcomes are in southwest Georgia,” Hollis said. “Some of those counties down there that have 70% African American populations are being decimated by this.”

Hollis’s prior research and experience show Vitamin D deficiency is more prevalent among African-Americans and people with more melanin in their skin and nursing home residents who have little exposure to sunlight.

Vitamin D does several things for the immune system, Dr. Hollis explains. However, he sees high-risk populations typically not paying attention to vitamin intake. Vitamin D is present in a few foods, and typically at lower levels than what is needed for sufficiency.

Sun exposure from ultraviolet rays and daily supplements are Dr. Hollis’s Vitamin D recommendations. The study is looking to sample high-risk populations such as African-Americans and people in nursing homes by providing Vitamin D supplements over several months.

“Even in our hospital what I hear is almost all cases in the ICU are African-Americans,” Hollis said.

MUSC doctors are looking at Vitamin D deficient and infected COVID-19 patients, comparing blood levels and the severity of the infection. The study is not looking for a cure but hopeful in prevention outcomes.

“What we are saying is it could put you in a position that if you get it you could only be a mild case instead of progressing onto a really serious ICU type case,” Hollis said.

Dr. Hollis recommends taking a Vitamin D supplement daily. His recommendation for the average adult is 4000 to 6000 IU (international units.) Daily supplements of Vitamin D intake can take days to metabolite and about three months to create a steady level, according to Dr. Hollis. He recommends getting Vitamin D blood levels tested once a year if you do not take supplements regularly.

Within the year, Dr. Hollis says the Vitamin D and COVID-19 research team hopes to have sufficient data.

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