Exploring the Potential of Vitamins in Combating Human Coronaviruses

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Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has been the causative agent behind the ongoing global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Initially detected in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, it has since spread worldwide, resulting in approximately 673.68 million infections and over 6,660,603 deaths as of February 2023 [1].

The alarming rise in cases has prompted extensive research into potential treatments, with a focus on repurposing existing drugs, including vitamins.

The Coronaviridae family, to which SARS-CoV-2 belongs, includes various strains causing respiratory diseases ranging from mild to severe. Understanding the interactions of different vitamins with coronaviruses can provide valuable insights into potential therapeutic approaches [4,5].

Repurposing FDA-Approved Drugs:

Efforts to develop effective anti-SARS-CoV-2 drugs have been ongoing, with a particular focus on repurposing FDA-approved compounds. This approach leverages the well-known clinical effects and toxicity profiles of existing drugs, making them readily available for new purposes, especially during health emergencies [6].

Challenges in drug availability and cost-effectiveness, particularly in low-income countries, remain significant hurdles. Additionally, concerns regarding toxicity and the lack of experimental validation of repurposed drugs must be addressed [6].

Vitamins as Potential Antiviral Agents:

Vitamins, essential micronutrients with roles in cellular metabolism and host immunity, have shown promise in combating various viral disorders. The solubility of vitamins categorizes them into fat-soluble (A, D2, D3, E) and water-soluble (B, C) groups [8].

Vitamin D, for example, has demonstrated direct and indirect antiviral activity against several viruses, including those causing respiratory infections. Its ability to regulate immune functions and induce the interferon signaling pathway makes it a potential candidate for anti-SARS-CoV-2 therapy [9,10,11,12].

Vitamins B1, C, D, and E play crucial roles in the innate immune system during viral infections. Higher intakes of Vitamin C and Vitamin B complex micro-nutrients have shown promise in managing the COVID-19 pandemic successfully [17,18,19].

Roles of Specific Vitamins:

Vitamin A, vital for immune cell maturation and functioning, has been linked to the severity of infections. Deficiencies are associated with impaired regeneration of virus-damaged epithelia [20,21].

Vitamin B12, a water-soluble vitamin, plays crucial roles in metabolic processes, cardiovascular health, and immune system control. It has been implicated in repairing tissue damage and compensating for diminished hepatic storage during viral hepatitis [9,23,24].

Study Objectives:

Despite the existing data supporting vitamin supplementation in viral infections, including SARS-CoV-2, the specific role of each vitamin in combating coronaviruses remains unclear. This study aims to investigate the impact of selected vitamins on the infectivity and replication of human coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, MERS-CoV, and HCoV-229E. The research will utilize in silico and in vitro studies to provide a comprehensive understanding of the potential antiviral effects of vitamins.

Discussion

Vitamins, essential for cellular growth, function, and development, play crucial roles in immune responses to pathogens and antibody production. With implications in both innate and adaptive immunity, vitamins, especially vitamin C, act as antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and immunomodulators, reducing the risk of pneumonia and viral respiratory infections [51]. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the potential of vitamins, including their role in the prevention and treatment of respiratory infections, has garnered attention [52].

In this study, the direct antiviral activities of various vitamins against coronaviruses were explored through in vitro and in silico assessments. The findings revealed that certain vitamins exhibited a direct impact on viral infectivity and replication, downregulating viral RNA of SARS-CoV-2, MERS-CoV, and HCoV-229E in Vero E6 cells.

Importantly, these antiviral activities demonstrated dose-dependent inhibition, suggesting their potential in suppressing viral infections. Notably, some vitamins, even if showing low direct antiviral activity, could contribute to patient recovery indirectly by enhancing the immune response.

Vitamin C, while displaying low direct anti-coronavirus activity in this study, has been associated with lower mortality and severity in SARS-CoV-2 patients, indicating its role in boosting immune antiviral activity [55,56]. Vitamin B12, specifically Methylcobalamin, exhibited significant binding affinities to viral proteins, suggesting potential therapeutic benefits. Moreover, vitamin B12 demonstrated regulatory effects on NFκB levels, known for their role in the proinflammatory response linked to COVID-19 severity [17,63,64].

The in silico analysis of vitamin B12 forms revealed substantial binding affinities to SARS-CoV-2 viral proteins, including RdRp and furin endoprotease. These findings aligned with the in vitro results, confirming the efficiency of B12 vitamins against various coronavirus protein targets. Notably, vitamin B12, known for its immunomodulatory effects, was shown to alleviate symptoms associated with COVID-19 prognosis, such as pain intensity, depressive symptoms, memory loss, and impaired concentration [67,68,69].

Vitamins B2 and B9 demonstrated significant inhibition of various proteins in coronaviruses, both in vitro and in silico. Vitamin B9, known for enhancing natural killer cell activity and lymphocytic T cell count, exhibited broad antiviral activity, binding effectively to furin endoprotease in silico. Vitamin B2, essential for cellular functions and energy metabolism, displayed direct antiviral activity by inhibiting RNA copy numbers in vitro and efficiently binding to viral proteins’ active sites.

A commercially available injectable vitamin B complex (B-Com by Amoun pharm), composed of B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, demonstrated efficient inhibition of viral replication, supporting the potential of combined B complex use for protection or treatment [75]. However, further studies are needed to explore the optimal chemical form, dose, and supplementation timing of vitamin B12, either alone or in combination with other vitamins.

While vitamin D3 exhibited moderate inactivation of virus replication in vitro, its low binding affinity to viral proteins in silico suggests its potential indirect antiviral activity through an innate immune response. Clinical trials yielded inconsistent results regarding the efficacy of vitamin D3 in COVID-19 treatment and prevention, highlighting the need for further investigation.

In conclusion, the study unraveled the potential antiviral activities of various vitamins against coronaviruses, emphasizing the efficacy of vitamin B12 in its different forms. The multi-protein target antiviral activity of vitamins B2 and B9 adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the exploration of vitamins as potential therapeutic agents.

However, further in vivo studies are crucial to elucidate the optimal conditions for vitamin supplementation and its potential in combination therapies, paving the way for precision health and nutrition strategies in the fight against viral diseases.


reference link : https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2607/11/11/2777

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