Researchers from Queen Mary University of London, funded by Barts Charity, say a new clinical trial they are collaborating on could produce a “definite answer” to the question of whether vitamin D protect people from COVID-19.
CORONAVIT will run for six months and involve more than 5,000 people to find out whether a ‘test-and-treat’ approach to correct people’s vitamin D deficiency during winter will reduce the risk and/or severity of COVID-19 and other acute respiratory infections.
The researchers say the strategies to boost immunity to respiratory infections are urgently needed pending development of an effective vaccine for coronavirus. Despite a growing body of research linking vitamin D supplementation with better disease outcomes, and potential protective effect against coronavirus, “definite evidence on this is lacking”, the London team says.
Lead researcher Professor Adrian Martineau from Queen Mary University of London said: “There is mounting evidence that vitamin D might reduce the risk of respiratory infections, with some recent studies suggesting that people with lower vitamin D levels may be more susceptible to coronavirus.
CORONAVIT trial has the potential to give a definitive answer to the question of whether vitamin D offers protection against COVID-19
“Many people in the UK have low vitamin D levels, particularly in the winter and spring, when respiratory infections are most common. Vitamin D deficiency is more common in older people, in people who are overweight, and in Black and Asian people – all of the groups who are at increased risk of becoming very ill with COVID-19.
“The UK government already recommends that people take a low-dose vitamin D supplement over the winter to protect their bone health, but we do not know if this will have effect on COVID-19 or if higher doses might be able to provide protection against the virus. The CORONAVIT trial will test whether higher doses of vitamin D might offer protection against winter respiratory infections including COVID-19.”
Participants in the new study will be asked to do a a postal finger prick vitamin D test, which will be processed in an NHS lab. Those who are found to have low levels of vitamin D in their blood will then be given a six months’ supply of either 800 or 3,200 IU of vitamin D a day (a higher level than the 400 IU recommended by the UK Government for the general population).
The research team will then track the incidence of doctor-diagnosed or laboratory-confirmed acute respiratory infection in the participants, including COVID-19, to see whether vitamin D supplementation has had an effect on their risk and severity of infection.
Principal Investigator of the study, Dr David Jolliffe from Queen Mary University of London, added: “CORONAVIT trial has the potential to give a definitive answer to the question of whether vitamin D offers protection against COVID-19. Vitamin D supplements are low in cost, low in risk and widely accessible; if proven effective, they could significantly aid in our global fight against the virus.