“The specific nutrition of the body's defense cells is critical to its performance. Some nutrients stand out in this particular system and their association with the chosen intervention allows for the optimization of the immune response, which otherwise could yield to the intensity of the viral load, enabling the infection to be installed,” says the specialist in human nutrition and principal investigator of the study, Dr. José João Name.
During COVID-19, infection of lung cells by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is believed to trigger a process called cytokine storm - when the body's defense cells secrete proteins with pro-inflammatory action at excessively high levels. Cytokine storm is one of the main mechanisms responsible for acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), the main cause of COVID-19 mortality.
In addition to the induction of the cytokine storm, it was noted that SARS-CoV-2 is able to inhibit the production of interferon, a family of proteins produced by cells which play vital role in fighting cancer and in the body's antiviral defenses. These proteins can also have an anti-inflammatory action, which could counteract the cytokine storm associated with severe cases of COVID-19. In turn, interferon has been used successfully in the treatment of viral infectious diseases, such as hepatitis B and C.
In this context, zinc, vitamin D and glutamine nutrients, and the OncoTherad immunomodulator act as activators of interferon production and, therefore, show significant synergistic potential in the treatment of COVID-19.
Oncotherad is an immunotherapeutic agent developed at the University of Campinas with the objective of stimulating the individual's immune system in the fight against cancer and may also act in the fight against infections. The safety of the compound is already proven by phase I studies, and preliminary data have confirmed its clinical effectiveness in the treatment of bladder cancer. Acting on the synthesis of interferon, Oncotherad also proved to be a promising adjuvant in the treatment of COVID-19 (2).
In order to assess the role of nutrition in the modulation of interferons, the authors of the paper reviewed the scientific literature and observed that zinc, vitamin D and glutamine have properties capable of promoting the immune response mediated by the signaling of these proteins and that, therefore, can act during the treatment of COVID-19.
In addition to stimulating the production of interferons, the authors also discussed other mechanisms by which these nutrients could assist the body in fighting the virus. For example, Zinc is able to inhibit viral replication, while vitamin D can have anti-inflammatory effects and stimulate the antimicrobial peptide catelicidin, with important antiviral activity. Also, glutamine, vitamin D and zinc are essential for the immune cell function and the maintenance of a healthy immune system.
The authors of the review concluded: “As a whole, the available evidence indicates that zinc, vitamin D and glutamine are fundamental in antiviral defenses, with emphasis on the participation of these nutrients in interferon signaling, suggesting an adjunctive and synergistic therapeutic potential with OncoTherad to modulate the immune function in the treatment of COVID-19. Hence, the potential beneficial role of these compounds during infection by SARS-Cov-2 justifies the need for pre-clinical and clinical studies that validate their combination and standardize the dosages that provide the greatest benefit to the patient.”
“Although treatments and vaccines are being extensively studied, there is currently no approved treatment for COVID-19. With the rapid advance of the disease, there is an urgent need for an effective treatment”, concludes Dr. José João Name.
“Vitamin D, Zinc and Glutamine: Synergistic Action with OncoTherad Immunomodulator in Interferon Signaling and COVID-19”
Authors: José João Name et al.