Encouraging pilotstudy suggests low dose radiation can cure Covid-19 pneumonia

Update: Two patients in India also improved on radiation. Here.

A small medical experiment at Emory University Winship Cancer Institute in Atlanta has fanned hope that a low dose of radiation can cure the often fatal pneumonia associated with Covid-19 - and within  just a few days! This good news deserves however some nuancing because it only concerns 5 patients and this is not a so-called 'randomized clinical trial', which is a condition for scientific acceptance. Further pilots are now taking place in India, Spain, Italy and Iran and a real RCT in the US in total involving 275 patients (See here). The interesting thing that this is actually old news. In the first half of the 20th century pneumona and lots of other infections were often treated with low dow dose radiation and according to a plethora of studies: successfully. The fact that no good treatment exists for Covid-19 renewed interest in low dose radiation. 

The five patients involved  had a proven Corona infection and pneumonia. They received extra oxygen, but were not intubated, since those patients cannot be transported. They were bedridden, suffered various underlying diseases.and their general condition was deteriorating. 4 patients were black, 4 were female and they ranged in age from 64-94 years (median 90). They were irradiated for 15 minutes and received a total dose of 1.5 Sievert on their lungs. That is considered a low dose (perhaps a high low dose - I will go into this further).

Within 24  hours 3 patients improved and were taken off the oxygen. The fourth patient needed a bit more time, the fifth patient didnt seem to react to the treatment. Apart from the latter patient the others were discharged after 12 days of hospitalization. There was no evidence of side effects from the irradiation (and are not really to be expected at such a dose).

Although this study seems carefully done, its power is minimal. There was no control group, but there is a lot of historical evidence that can somewhat serve as control. This was collected several years ago by professor Edward Calabrese and others from the University of Massachusets in Amherst. They discovered that in the first half of the last century, similar doses of radiation were used in a variety of infections: pneumonia, ear infection, whooping cough and more. They found dozens of studies and while those studies didn't meet modern standards, they were convincing enough to give this approach a new chance. Calabrese was impressed by the finding that the authors of the older studies didn't seem to be aware of each other so quite independently came to their often enthusiastic conclusions about the lives saved and the speed with which this occurred.

If further research does indeed show that low doses of radiation are effective, this is a great victory for Calabrese and other supporters of the so-called hormesis theory. This means that chemicals and radiation are dangerous only in high doses and while in low doses they stimulate the body's immune system and thereby promote health. Simply put: if it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger. Many studies, both in the laboratory and in real life have shown this effect but hormesis is still a controversial idea in science. The disappearance of the low dose radiation treatment of infections in the middle of the past century does not seem to be associated with bad experiences, rather with the development and promotion of other medication.

It is important to mention that this low dose therapy differs significantly from the oft used and quite successful radiotherapy against cancer. There much higher doses are applied. To get a perspective here one first needs to know that everyone on this planet receives a dose of natural radiation (from the soil, space and medical sources) of about 2,5 milliSievert. That is in a year, whereas during cancer therapy people receive e.g. 50.000 milliSievert in a few hours. That is a huge difference. This low dose therapy against pneumonia gives 1500 milliSievert within 15 minutes, and the other planned studies use even lower doses. . Scientists say that radiation in high doses simply burns away cancerous cells (and hardly causes new cancers that way), while the low dose therapy works differently by stimulating the immune system.

The pilot study can be found here: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.06.03.20116988v1.full.pdf


Dr James Conca wrote an extensive review of ealier work in Forbes The Link:https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2020/05/13/researchers-explore-low-doses-of-radiation-to-treat-severe-coronavirus-cases/#5965cb8e1454. He gave an update more recently. The Link:https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2020/06/12/1st-human-trial-successfully-treated-covid-19-using-low-doses-of-radiation/#6f59de4ddc69

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