Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) can destroy harmful bacteria and viruses, while enhancing the body’s natural defenses. We propose HBOT for high risk, early stage COVID-19 patients, recommending this novel use of pressure and oxygen based on its low risk and potentially lifesaving benefits, as well as its availability in hospitals and free-standing clinics nationwide.
The effectiveness and feasibility of HBOT has been confirmed by numerous clinical studies over several decades. A 2009 study, conducted by Cassandra A. Godman, found that HBOT regulates approximately 40% of the human genome. Godman identified 8,101 genes mediated through hyperbaric oxygen. Most significant was the upregulation of anti-inflammatory genes, and the down regulation of pro-inflammatory genes. A subsequent 2010 publication states, “Hyperbaric oxygen induces a cytoprotective and angiogenic response in human microvascular endothelial cells.” This research opened the door to understanding how HBOT acts as an agent activating antioxidant and cell protecting genes to safeguard against lethal insults like viruses and bacteria.
Principal among HBOT’s effects is increased oxygen tension in tissues. Many micro-organisms that cause infections and systemic illnesses do not tolerate oxygen. Increased partial oxygen pressure in the blood destroys these micro-organisms, eliminating infection. The body is defenseless against Anaerobic infections, or infections caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungi that don’t need oxygen to live. HBOT elevates oxygen levels in cells to destroy these microbes.
COVID-19 mortality is due to pulmonary infection which leads to respiratory failure. The primary pathology is in the lungs, exactly where hyperbaric oxygen effects begin. Hyperbaric conditions facilitate oxygen diffusion from the alveoli to the blood stream. Doctor Paul Harch, Director of Hyperbaric Medicine at Charity Hospital adds that “Applied correctly, hyperbaric therapy may have utility in Coronavirus patients like its life-saving history with the Spanish Flu. The publication of a retrospective analysis of lung CT scans on 121 patients infected with coronavirus in four Chinese provinces was announced. The CT scans showed progressive air space disease that radiologically depicted the diffusion barrier to oxygen that Dr. Paul Harch suggested was similar to the lung pathology in Spanish Flu victims of 1918. Harch’s team found evidence of successful treatment of a severe case of coronavirus infection in Wuhan, China. This patient managed to successfully traverse the critically ill period and was no longer in jeopardy.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is effective in treating the cascading challenges associated with the coronavirus immune response. With any infection, the body’s immune system responds by attacking the foreign virus or bacteria. While this immune response can rid the body of the infection, it can also cause collateral damage in the body termed a “cytokine storm”. The immune cells produce cytokines to fight infection, however, when too many are released, chronic autoimmune problems can result. People most vulnerable to COVID-19 are individuals with pre-existing health challenges associated with chronic cytokine storm syndrome.
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