Vitamin D Dramatically Improves Response to Hepatitis C Infection

November 09, 2009

Vitamin D Dramatically Improves Response to Hepatitis C Infection  

 Reference: Abstract from the Annual Liver Society Meetings, Abu Mouch from Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hidera, Israel. 

Treating Hepatitis C is a problem. It is a chronic disease that eats away at your liver. The medications are slightly effective, but not always. A 48% response rate is considered pretty good. The drugs used have to be given continuously for life and you have to monitor the “viral load.” If you can pronounce peg-interferon-alfa2b (1.5 µg/kg once weekly) plus ribavirin (1000 to 2000 mg/day) you’ve got the mouthful used to treat chronic Hep C.  

In this study of 58 patients, the authors randomized who would get extra Vitamin D sufficient to get to a blood level of 32 ng. That took between 1000 and 4000 IU a day in Israel (a place that gets a lot more sunshine than Milwaukee). The 31 patients who got the D were actually sicker than the controls as they had a 68% viral load versus 58%. They also had more fibrosis in their livers.  

What they observed was just a beautiful thing. The first observation was that 44% of the Vit. D patients had a “rapid response” with dramatic reductions in viral load in just 4 weeks, versus only 18% of the control group with traditional therapy. Second, by 12 weeks, the Vit D group had a 96% response (26 of 27 patients) were HCV RNA-negative. This was assessed by reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. This means the virus had disappeared from the blood. The control group had only 48% response rate. For those of you who are good statisticians, this is a p < .001 difference. 

 There is a pattern emerging that I observe in regard to viral infections. This is a randomized controlled trial with a virus in which we see a strong response. We also know the story from the Central Wisconsin Care facility from this summer with Swine Flu. A swine flu epidemic affected only one resident of 275 who was on Vitamin D, but infected 103 workers of the 850 staff who may or may not have been on extra D. This is considered an anecdote and not “credible” science, but it is a story that fits the pattern.   

I personally know of several people who have had cold sores get dramatically better with Vitamin D. Again, these are anecdotes but close to home with personal experience. It appears to me that the well-known immune modulating effect of D works with viruses as well as bacteria. 

 WWW. What Will Work for Me? I know my D level is above 32. This study suggests everyone should be above 32. It should be the basement of good health, not the target or ceiling. There is no toxicity of D below a level of 150 ng. At the American Academy of Anti-Aging, the protocol of treatment of colds was 50,000 IU of Vitamin D for three days to raise your D level 20 ng in 3 days. Maybe we should keep this in mind the next time we feel a cold coming on.

This column was written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI 53045