A new medical trial in the UK is researching whether vitamin A nasal drops can be given to Covid patients to recover their loss of smell, a common symptom of the infection, which is sometimes even experienced by post-Covid patients. The 12-week trial by University of East Anglia (UEA) aims to compare a group of volunteers receiving vitamin A nasal drops with those receiving a placebo of inactive drops.
As per the research team’s press statement, previous research from Germany has “shown the potential benefit” of vitamin A in treating smell loss, and the trial is designed to “explore how this treatment works to help repair tissues in the nose damaged by viruses”.
The volunteers will be made to smell odours like rotten eggs and roses for “special brain scans” to gauge whether smelling can repair and detect brain activity, said UEA medical professor Carl Philpott.
Vitamin A, or retinol, experts say, has a range of benefits including for the skin, bone health, and even improving vision. A February 1962 JAMA network study also mentioned how vitamin A can help restore olfactory sense.
As per Harvard Medical School, temporary loss of smell, or anosmia, is the main neurological symptom and one of the earliest and most commonly reported indicators of Covid. Notably, it is considered a better indicator of the infection than common symptoms like fever and cough. But the underlying mechanisms for loss of smell in patients with Covid-19 have been unclear.
According to experts, vitamin therapies have been used to cure many diseases for quite some time. Many physicians are now recognising the beneficial uses of antioxidants and other vitamins for a wide variety of conditions, often as a complementary therapy to accompany medication or other treatments, they say.
“When it comes to vitamin A, we have been using it to reduce complications of diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, and measles, and for fertility, diarrhea, vision, child development, skin disorders, infections, and any other condition,” explained Dr Shuchin Bajaj, founder-director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals.
While vitamin A drops are available in India, Dr Bajaj said the “wait is on for the final result of the research to make use of it in our patients”.
However, Dr Manoj Sharma, senior consultant, internal medicine, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi said the view that a few drops of vitamin A can fix the activity of damaged smell pathways in the brains of patients is not correct and has not been corroborated yet.
“In all honesty, I would not like to comment on the same as I do not think it will prove to be effective or helpful for patients with Covid. I think the only thing that can help are precautionary measures,” said Dr Sharma.
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