Rationale for Vitamin C Treatment of COVID-19 and Other Viruses

by the International Society Of Orthomolecular Medicine

Olufemi Kofoworola Dada B.Sc. Microbiology and John Adeyanju B.Sc. Microbiology, PGD Education. Peer reviewed and supervised by Dr Gregory Agbonvihele Okoh-Oboh M.B.B. S, M.Sc. Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Ph.D. |Email address/LinkedIn profile:, Olufemi Dada., John Adeyanju. Dr Gregory Agbonvihele Okoh-Oboh.

Epidemics seem to be on the rise: in a total of 98 epidemics in the 200 years of 19th and 20th centuries, there were 14 epidemics with 1000 or more deaths. However, in the last 20 years, in a total of 63 epidemics, there have already been 11 epidemics with more than 1,000 deaths. With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the trend is concerning as our modern world becomes more connected by high-speed travel. [1-5]


Research and development of vaccines and virus specific drugs takes at least a few years to develop and deploy for worldwide use -- if indeed possible. There has never been a vaccine available to stop an ongoing major pandemic in the history of mankind. We did not have vaccine for SARS, nor MERS. We cannot expect a vaccine for most of the worldwide people anytime soon for COVID-19. Likely this trend will continue for the foreseeable future. This is due to the nature of the process: vaccines are always in reaction to a new outbreak, and R&D of vaccines takes a long time. Even if a vaccine for COVID-19 does become available, it will be too late, and the world will likely be affected by major chaos with lives lost and economies damaged. Although a vaccine strategy is desirable, with the current R&D process, it is not practical. [4,5]

Integrative medicine is effective and practical

The world's political, scientific, medical, and industrial leaders need to consider this very carefully. We must face the reality of the current crisis and look elsewhere for more proactive, effective, and practical ways for preventing and stopping major pandemics like COVID-19. The integrative medical approach, that employs safe supplements of vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc and other nutrients is highly relevant. This approach is a proactive, effective, and eminently practical way to deal with the present pandemic. Treatment with high-dose vitamin C has been widely utilized by hospital ERs and ICUs to prevent death from SARS-associated pneumonia. [6-21] This treatment needs due attention paid, and most definitely warrants further studies. If there is one good thing out of this world-wide tragedy of COVID19, maybe it has prepared us for future pandemics.

Role of vitamin C in the body

Vitamin C is the main systemic extracellular antioxidant, and when given at high doses, either orally (3-10 g/day) or IV (10-50 g/day, etc.), can function as an antioxidant to prevent toxicity from ROS (Reactive oxygen species) and viruses. When oxidized through donating an electron to reduce an ROS, it can be regenerated through a variety of mechanisms, including reducing enzymes and other antioxidants. Vitamin C can support intracellular antioxidants such as GSH (glutathione) and catalase when the load of ROS is severe. Vitamin C can regenerate GSH when depleted by severe stress. The role of catalase is mainly to reduce hydrogen peroxide and it can function along with SOD and vitamin C to protect cells. However, catalase and SOD are large molecules and do not serve the same role as vitamin C (ascorbate) which is a small molecule and can donate electrons to any ROS that it contacts, including oxidized vitamin E and many other molecules that may get damaged by ROS -- in either the intracellular or extracellular space. [22]

Vitamin C also empowers the immune system, promoting chemotaxis, growth, and activity of some immune cells (macrophages, lymphocytes, natural killer cells) allowing the body to fight an infection more effectively. [22] Vitamin C has many other roles in which it functions as a specific co-factor for biochemical reactions, for example, in the synthesis of aggrecan and collagen in which it is necessary for the crosslinking of long fibers into a 3D matrix, in the absorption of iron, in the metabolism of many essential biochemicals including carnitine and neurotransmitters (e.g., norepinephrine, serotonin).

Thus, it is essential for recovery from damage caused by viral or bacterial infections, as well as for the normal functioning of the brain and many essential biochemical pathways. [22]

In addition, when the body is under severe stress, for example, recovering from toxin exposure, surgery, or SARS, the level of vitamin C can be depleted so that it cannot perform its direct or indirect antioxidant functions or its many other specific co-factor roles in biochemical metabolism. This can in turn deplete the other antioxidants, e.g., GSH and vitamin E, which can cause severe oxidative damage inside cells that normally they would prevent. In high-dose intravenous vitamin C (IVC) therapy, vitamin C is thought to be a pro-oxidant in selective cell types, which allows it to kill specific cell types. This role may function in some types of cancer and immune hyperinflammation. [23-30]

Overall, vitamin C has a variety of effects (i.e., "pleiotropic") that are not duplicated by intracellular antioxidants. It supports intracellular antioxidants and is necessary as a specific co-factor in many critical biochemical reactions in many organs of the body. Dosage of vitamin C: effects IVC can supply much higher blood plasma levels than oral doses. However, the vitamin C levels from IVC peak and fall rapidly. Although IVC can be given continuously, this is performed less often than IVC doses given at intervals. Oral doses taken regularly (i.e., in divided doses throughout the day) can maintain an even (but lower) level. [25-30]

The lower level of vitamin C produced by oral dosing is commonly thought to provide an antioxidant function. However, higher doses provided by IVC are considered to cause a pro-oxidant state within cells such as cancer cells that lack antioxidant enzymes, where the high