COVID-19, the infection disease that has spawned from coronavirus, attacks the body in unpredictable ways. The respiratory infection merely produces flu-like symptoms or no symptoms at all in some people. In others, it rampages through the body, causing complications that may prove fatal.
The gulf that exists between asymptomatic interactions and those that require intensive care has been a critical impediment to the effort to understand and ultimately implement an effective response to COVID-19.
However, research is increasingly narrowing the gap of understanding, helping health experts to launch effective counterattacks to the pathogen.
A new study may prove instrumental to this effort, suggesting that diet may account for some of the difference in reactions.
Patients who have died or been admitted to intensive care with COVID-19 have been found to be deficient in a vitamin K, according to new research.
What explains the link?
As the researchers explain, COVID-19 causes blood clotting and leads to the degradation of elastic fibres in the lungs.
Vitamin K, which is ingested through food and absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, is key to the production of proteins that regulate clotting and can protect against lung disease.
The Dutch researchers are now seeking funding for a clinical trial, but Dr Rob Janssen, a scientist working on the project, said that in light of the initial findings he would encourage a healthy intake of vitamin K, except to those on blood-thinning medications such as warfarin.
Commenting on the findings, he said: "We are in a terrible, horrible situation in the world. We do have an intervention which does not have any side effects, even less than a placebo. There is one major exception: people on anti-clotting medication. It is completely safe in other people.
"My advice would be to take those vitamin K supplements. Even if it does not help against severe Covid-19, it is good for your blood vessels, bones and probably also for the lungs."
Dr Janssen added: "We have [vitamin] K1 and K2. K1 is in spinach, broccoli, green vegetables, blueberries, all types of fruit and vegetables. K2 is better absorbed by the body. It is in Dutch cheese, I have to say, and French cheese as well."
A Japanese delicacy of fermented soya beans called natto is particularly high in the second type of vitamin K and there may be cause for further studies into its health benefits, he noted.
Jona Walk, a second researcher on the study, said: "We want to take very sick COVID-19 patients and randomise so that they get a placebo or vitamin K, which is very safe to use in the general population."
Walk added: "We want to give vitamin K in a significantly high enough dose that we really will activate [the protein] that is so important for protecting the lungs, and check if it is safe."What can I do to alleviate mild symptoms of COVID-19?
There is currently no specific treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19), but you can often ease the symptoms at home until you recover.
According to the NHS, if you have a high temperature, it can help to:Get lots of restDrink plenty of fluids (water is best) to avoid dehydration – drink enough so Your urine is light yellow and clearTake paracetamol or ibuprofen if you feel uncomfortable
"If you have a cough, it's best to avoid lying on your back. Lie on your side or sit upright instead," added the health site.