An exploratory study that analysed the blood serum levels in 30 COVID-19 patients and 30 healthy individuals in South India has indicated that COVID-19 patients had a lower level of selenium (an essential nutrient) than the healthy individuals.
The researchers who conducted the study called for a larger study to see if there's a causal relationship between the selenium status and COVID-19.
In a paper published by Nutrition, an international medical journal focusing on nutrition science, the researchers - Muhammed Majeed, Kalyanam Nagabhushanam, Sujay Gowda and Lakshmi Mundkur - said the exploratory study demonstrates that selenium status is lower in patients with COVID-19 than in healthy controls, in corroboration with two recently published studies.
While the Indian study analysed the selenium level of relatively young patients with mild symptoms with slight hypoxia, a similar study conducted in Germany by a different group of researchers had patients who were older and had severe symptoms.
"The observational nature of the study precluded any conclusion on the causal relationship between selenium status and COVID-19. Future studies in a larger population would be valuable. Improving the selenium status by nutritional measures or supplementation may be helpful in reducing the devastation caused by the virus in India", the study concludes.
The paper says that the 'patients showed significantly lower selenium levels of 69.2 +- 8.7 ng/mL than controls 79.1 +- 10.9 ng/mL' and the difference was statistically significant.
It also said that the control group showed a borderline level of selenium, suggesting that the level of this micronutrient is not optimum in the population studied.
Selenium is an essential trace element incorporated into 25 selenoproteins having selenocysteine in their active centre.
Some of these selenoproteins are essential for defence against viral infections, control of thyroid hormone signalling, protection against oxidative stress, protein folding, and mitochondrial health, says a study published in the medical journal Lancet in 2012.
Some research papers also suggest that selenium supplementation reduces allergic asthma, augment vaccine responses, and reduce the progression of tuberculosis.
The results of this exploratory study may pave the way for further research in a larger population to see if selenium supplementation will help reduce the effects of COVID causing novel coronavirus too.
The researchers are associated with Bengaluru based Sami-Sabinsa Group Limited and ClinWorld Private Limited, and Sabinsa Corporation, United States.