In a new study, researchers found an association between vitamin D deficiency and the likelihood of becoming infected with the coronavirus.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Chicago Medicine.
Vitamin D is important to the function of the immune system and vitamin D supplements have previously been shown to lower the risk of viral respiratory tract infections.
The current study suggests this may be true for the COVID-19 infection.
The research team looked at 489 UChicago Medicine patients whose vitamin D level was measured within a year before being tested for COVID-19.
Patients who had vitamin D deficiency (< 20ng/ml) that was not treated were almost twice as likely to test positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus compared to patients who had sufficient levels of the vitamin.
Half of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D, with much higher rates seen in African Americans, Hispanics, and individuals living in areas like Chicago where it is difficult to get enough sun exposure in winter.
The team says understanding whether treating Vitamin D deficiency changes COVID-19 risk could be of great importance locally, nationally, and globally.
Vitamin D is inexpensive, generally very safe to take, and can be widely scaled.
The team emphasizes the importance of experimental studies to determine whether vitamin D supplementation can reduce the risk, and potential severity, of COVID-19.
They also highlight the need for studies of what strategies for vitamin D supplementation may be most appropriate in specific populations.
They have initiated several clinical trials at UChicago Medicine and with partners locally.
One author of the study is David Meltzer, MD, Ph.D., the Chief of Hospital Medicine.
The study is published in JAMA Network Open.
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