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Recently, a new coronavirus was identified as the cause of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).1 In the absence of a specific treatment for SARS, the possibility that vitamin C may show non-specific effects on severe viral respiratory tract infections should be considered. There are numerous reports indicating that vitamin C may affect the immune system,2,3 for example the function of phagocytes, transformation of T lymphocytes and production of interferon. In particular, vitamin C increased the resistance of chick embryo tracheal organ cultures to infection caused by an avian coronavirus.4 Studies in animals found that vitamin C modifies susceptibility to various bacterial and viral infections,3 for example protecting broiler chicks against an avian coronavirus.5 Placebo-controlled trials have shown quite consistently that the duration and severity of common cold episodes are reduced in the vitamin C groups,3 indicating that viral respiratory infections in humans are affected by vitamin C levels. There is also evidence indicating that vitamin C may affect pneumonia.3 In particular, three controlled trials with human subjects reported a significantly lower incidence of pneumonia in vitamin C-supplemented groups,6 suggesting that vitamin C may affect susceptibility to lower respiratory tract infections under certain conditions. The possibility that vitamin C affects severe viral respiratory tract infections would seem to warrant further study, especially in light of the recent SARS epidemic.
Source: Vitamin C and SARS coronavirus