Is vitamin C helpful against Ebola?

  • 25 Sep 2014
  • Reading time 6 mins
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Understandably, there are no trials yet testing vitamin C against the Ebola virus, either in the test-tube or real life. However, there are many good reasons to consider that it would be very helpful in the right doses. Currently, the medical/pharmaceutical thrust is towards creating a vaccine or a drug treatment, most likely involving the injection of large amounts of anti-Ebola antibodies. The few labs that do have access to testing Ebola are unlikely to be testing the effects of vitamin C on Ebola any time soon.

However, two top medical vitamin C experts believe that it could help. As extraordinary as this might sound there is NO VIRUS yet investigated that a sustained high dose of vitamin C, given intravenously, or in high and continuous oral doses, hasn't killed off or substantially suppressed.

Dr Robert Cathcart, who has more experience treating potentially deadly infections with high dose vitamin C than any other doctor I know of, says, “the Ebola virus kills by way of free radicals which can be neutralized by massive doses of sodium ascorbate intravenously”.

He refers to the case of Nurse Pineo saying she “was the first white that survived the Lassa fever (another hemorrhagic fever) outbreak in Lassa and was taking vitamins of her own accord. (Fuller, JG. Fever. Reader's Digest Press. 1974.)” I have not been able to verify details of this case.

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In his book ‘Vitamin C, Infectious Diseases and Toxins: Curing the Incurable’ Dr Thomas Levy describes how high dose vitamin C has successfully eliminated all known viruses. “I have not found any virus for which vitamin C does not exert a virucidal effect, as long as enough vitamin C reaches the virus, such as in any acute infection.” According to Dr Levy “the virus so rapidly and totally metabolises and consumes all available vitamin C in the bodies of victims that an advanced stage of scurvy is produced after only a few days.” He proposed that the haemorrhagic fever, inducing internal bleeding, which is the primary cause of death in Ebola, is remarkably similar to scurvy. I’ve not been able to verify this.

What is known is that the greater the strength of an infection the higher doses of vitamin C a person can tolerate before reaching ‘bowel tolerance’ level, after which a person gets very loose bowels. This does suggest that the stronger the infection, which produces free radicals, the more rapidly it would exhaust vitamin C, which attempts to quench free radicals, potentially leading to acute induced scurvy, the main symptom of which is haemorrage.

Both experts point out how important it is to achieve sufficiently high vitamin C level in the blood plasma, and to keep it high. The stronger an infection the more vitamin C is used up, hence also the more you can tolerate before reaching 'bowel tolerance'. Even if this doesn't occur it is terribly important to keep yourself hydrated at all times.

There are many potential reasons reason why high dose vitamin C makes a lot of sense in the treatment of Ebola. Viral infection is known to generate oxidative stress, which could be attenuated by vitamin C. Also, vitamin C has been shown to inhibit viral replication in vitro. And we know that in vitro very high doses of vitamin C generate hydrogen peroxide which has antimicrobial actions, but you would probably need intravenous vitamin C, or at least extremely high oral intake, to induce this effect.

The other thing I find really interesting about Ebola, but have yet to find the full story on, is that it appears to affect monkeys (primates) and fruit eating bats, but not other animals. Now, the only animals I know of who cannot synthesise their own vitamin C are primates, fruit-eating bats, guinea pigs, capybaras and the red-vented bulbul bird. So, if all vitamin C producing animals are immune, or at least survive if infected, that is really interesting. Infection appears to have primarily originated from handling dead primates and fruit-eating bats. It would be interesting to know if bats have lesser or no fatality than ushumans by virtue of their high vitamin C intake

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Meanwhile, we have no proven drug or vaccine, although the Zmapp drug (a mixture of three genetically modified humanised monoclonal antibodies, originally derived from mice, guinea pigs and monkeys) in the limited number of cases so far tested, seems to have substantially increased survival rates. While not all given Zmapp have survived, it seems that those with stronger immune systems, given a strong enough dose early enough during an infection, have. However, it has not been subject to clinical or safety testing so is very much in the experimental stage. Also, sadly, supplies have run out so it is a very limited option. A vaccine against this particular strain of Ebola is currently being rushed through into clinical trial stage.

Given that clinical trials on vitamin C, a non-patentable, thus not particularly profitable treatment, are not likely anytime soon there is certainly good logic, in the absence of other available treatments,, for the leading medical authorities to review the use of Vitamin C and for clinicians to consider this option.. Intravenous vitamin C has been used, and tested, for cancer, sepsis, and various infections with a very good safety record. A review in 2010 of 9,328 patients treated with IV vitamin C concludes that ‘Other than the known complications of IV vitamin C in those with renal impairment or glucose 6 phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, high dose intravenous vitamin C appears to be remarkably safe, .”

It is also worth pointing out that vitamin C treatment can be complementary to any other medical treatment, as and when available, as it helps the immune system to function better.

My advice, whenever there is a virus of any kind going around, is to keep your daily vitamin C level up. I take 2 grams a day in divided doses, and 1 gram every one or two hours if I get the first signs of a viral infection (e.g. blocked nose, itchy throat and headache). In the case of Ebola I would recommend immediate intravenous vitamin C. To find out what I have learnt about other killer viruses such as swine and bird flu and Vitamin C read my blog 'Can vitamin C kill swine flu?'.