Vitamin D for the entire population, the strategy suggested by the CSIC to stop the COVID-19 pandemic

More than half of the world population has insufficient levels and even a frank deficiency of vitamin D, and Spain, despite its many hours of sunshine -whose radiation is essential for the formation of this substance-, is no exception. Now, experts point out that supplying not very high doses of this compound to all citizens can become one of the strategies to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

This immunomodulator could help rapidly decrease the viral load of all those infected, stop the chain of infections and, therefore, reduce the peak of the second wave, details 20 minutes José María Benlloch, CSIC research professor and director of the Institute of Instrumentation for Molecular Imaging (I3M) of the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV). “Not very high doses could be given that would raise the vitamin D level of the entire population as prophylaxis. It would be necessary to reach an agreement of what amount is reasonable and prudent, and that people take these supplements, “he explains.

Benlloch’s proposal, which also defends the need for antivirals to deal with COVID-19, bets on vitamin D as an option preventive and therapeutic. In fact, doctors have been targeting this substance for months and its possible use as a treatment. This is the case of a pilot project at the Reina Sofía Hospital in Córdoba, led by Dr. José Manuel Quesada, which has achieved promising results by reducing the need for admission of patients to the ICU.

Importance of antivirals

However, Benlloch not only points to vitamin D as an alternative to treat COVID-19 and prevent its spread, but emphasizes the importance of having “accessible, effective and cheap” antivirals to reduce the impact of the pandemic. To support this position, he refers to a work published by a group of researchers from the CSIC and the UPV that reveals that these drugs could “significantly reduce the incidence” of this disease.

To reach this conclusion, the authors developed a computational random network model to study the transmission dynamics of COVID-19 in Spain, to be applied later to the simulation of four scenarios in which antivirals would be available with varying degrees of effectiveness. Thus, they found that the more efficient this type of drug was, the better the evolution of the pandemic, Benlloch points out.

“The ideal would be to find a very powerful, cheap and available antiviral in pharmacies that does not have side effects”

“The ideal would be to find a very powerful antiviral, cheap and available in pharmacies that does not have side effects. If after being diagnosed in the outpatient clinic you could go buy it and if it were also administered to close contacts, the chain would stop, the peak of the wave would be much lower and the curve would be much smoothed out, “says the I3M director.

However, there is currently no antiviral available to treat the coronavirus. “The only approved one is Remdesivir and it has a completely different use than that proposed by the work, since it is an injectable that is administered in hospitals. What we want is act just before arriving at these centers“He remarks. Along these lines, the CSIC professor points out that what is necessary is to verify the efficacy of drugs already existing and present on the market. For this, clinical trials with potential candidates are necessary, which can begin” before the end of year”.

Current situation: without antivirals

Health workers from the Severo Ochoa Hospital in Leganés embrace during the tribute to the 57-year-old operating room nurse who died of Covid-19, in Leganés / Madrid (Spain) on April 13, 2020. (file)

One of the scenarios included in the work of the CSIC and the UPV is precisely the current situation, that is, without any antiviral. The result: the number of infections will continue to grow during November until reaching its peak towards the end of the month, while the number of hospitalized will continue to increase until the first days of December and the death toll as of early 2021.

However, Benlloch draws attention to this forecast and highlights that, although it seems to be close to reality, the calculations were made in June, without taking into account some of the restrictions adopted to contain the spread of the virus, such as the curfew or perimeter confinements. Therefore, consider that your predictions are likely not to come true. “There was going to be a second wave that could be even more important than the first, which was already devastating, if no action was taken. As they have been taken, let’s hope it is not so serious,” he wishes.

“These measures have ensured that the second wave is not as acute as expected”

“These measures have made the second wave not as sharp as intended. In the communities where the restrictions were applied before, such as Catalonia or Madrid, they have already been seen to work, the curve has started to decline and the impact has softened. If antivirals were applied, they would still drop further. Probably, with the sum of several actions, it could be contained “, assures the scientist.

As for the future, depending on how this second wave evolves, the same model can be used to calculate the effects and the evolution of a hypothetical third wave, “which hopefully does not occur,” says Benlloch. In addition, at this time, this group of experts is using the program to study the effects that different vaccines can have, which they hope will be ready to publish in the next few days.