Blood poisoning, also called sepsis, is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. A combination of high-dosed, intravenously administered vitamin C may, however, shorten the hospital stay and lower the risk of dying, according to a study that is published in Journal of the American Medical Association. The study supports earlier research where a combination of intravenous vitamin C and vitamin B1 delivered even better results. These are simple and inexpensive therapies that can save lives by supporting the immune system and limiting damage to the cardiovascular system, the lungs, and other tissues.
Bacteria in the blood play an important role in blood poisoning. Normally, blood poisoning has its origin in infections in other organs, for example pneumonia, urinary tract infection, or infected wounds. In the case of infected lymph vessels, red stripes can appear on an arm for instance. Health professionals specifically use the term sepsis in cases where the patient has different types of organ symptoms, and the doctor suspects or knows for certain that it is because of an infection caused by bacteria, a virus, or any other microorganisms. Within very few hours, sepsis can affect the circulatory system, the lungs, and several inner organs and turn into septic shock, a life-threatening condition where the immune system overreacts to the infection in the blood. The symptoms are often overlooked or difficult to diagnose and include high fever, heart palpitations, breathing difficulty, confusion, drowsiness, and blurred speech. Many of the symptoms are a result of dehydration, so it is vital to rehydrate. Blood poisoning/sepsis requires immediate medical attention. Corticosteroids are typically used to inhibit the overactive immune defense, but this type of therapy is usually insufficient. In the United States alone, around 300,000 human lives are lost to the disease every year.
New vitamin C therapy may save lives and lower costs
Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University in the USA have conducted a study of 167 sepsis patients with acute respiratory symptoms. One group got intravenous vitamin C (50 mg/kg) every six hours for 96 hours, while the other group got intravenous placebo. The study showed that 46% of the patients in the placebo group died, and this figure had been reduced to 30% in the vitamin C group on day 28. Also, the study demonstrated that the patients that received intravenous vitamin C therapy spent significantly fewer days in hospital, including the intensive care unit, and that represents a huge reduction in health care costs. On average, the vitamin C group spent three days less in intensive care and a whole week less in hospital compared with the placebo group.
According to Professor Alpha A. Fowler, the scientists have found a new therapy form that not only saves lives but also leads to enormous savings. Sepsis is associated with severe disease, disability, and even death and represents a huge health cost. In the United States alone, sepsis cost taxpayers a staggering 32.7 billion US Dollars in 2013, and people without proper health care insurance risk going broke.
Professor Fowler considers these results promising, although more research is needed. The study, named CITRIS-ALI, was funded with USD 3.5 million from National Institutes of Health and is published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
“The number of people in the United States that die of sepsis annually are the same as if two, fully-booked Boeing 747 planes crashed every day of the year.”
(Professor Alpha A. Fowler)
A cocktail of cortisone, vitamin C, and vitamin B1 may save even more lives
It is primarily old and weak people that get sepsis. The disease is often seen in connection with influenza and accompanying complications such as pneumonia. A group of scientists from Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, USA, found earlier that a combination of cortisone and high-dosed intravenous vitamin C plus vitamin B1 can reduce mortality from 40% to 8.5%. This treatment seems even more promising, as the risk of dying of sepsis is five times less. The researchers also observed that the patients, who received this specific cocktail, recovered much faster than those in the control group. They assume that cortisone, high-dosed intravenous vitamin C and vitamin B1 work in synergy to help the derailed immune system get back on track without causing life-threatening damage to the body.
In this study, patients got six grams of intravenous vitamin C daily. The scientists call the combination of cortisone, vitamin C, and vitamin B1 an inexpensive and simple therapy that may significantly reduce the many deaths from blood poisoning/sepsis that are seen around the world. The promising study got published in the scientific journal CHEST in 2017.
How blood poisoning/sepsis causes the immune defense to go awry
Blood poisoning/sepsis causes the immune defense to overreact to bacteria or virus. What happens is that a type of white blood cells called TH1 start producing far too many pro-inflammatory cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor (NF-α), interferons (INF-y), and interleukin (IL-2). This may cause damage to the endothelial cells that line inside of the blood vessel walls and have a host of different functions. In turn, this may cause dehydration, tissue damage, and circulatory shock.
Alpha A. Fowler et al. Effect of Vitamin C infusion on Organ Failure and Biomarkers of Inflammation and Vascular Injury in Patients With Sepsis and Severe Acute Respiratory Failure. JAMA 2019
Virginia Commonwealth University. Vitamin C therapy linked to better survival rates after sepsis. ScienceDaily 2019.
Glenview, IL, June 26, 2017. Readily available drug cocktail may help prevent sepsis shock and deaths. Elsevier June 2017
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