Written by Carolanne Wright
A new report published in the Journal of Pineal Research states that an over-the-counter supplement might be one of our best defenses against the Ebola virus. Widely known as a remedy that encourages normal sleep-wake cycles, melatonin is readily available for purchase online or at local drug stores. And yet, researchers have long recognized that melatonin is far more than just a simple aid for sleep — it’s also a potent antioxidant and treatment for sepsis, a condition associated with Ebola virus infections. The supplement also targets other Ebola symptoms such as endothelial disruption, disseminated intravascular coagulation and multiple organ hemorrhage.
Unexpected benefits of melatonin
Melatonin is synthesized not only by the pineal gland but also by other organs in tiny amounts — like the retina, thymus, gastrointestinal tract and bone marrow. The hormone plays a crucial role in sleep and circadian rhythms, scavenging free radicals, antioxidant functions, immunity, reproduction and mood regulation. Melatonin is known to combat bacterial and viral infections as well. Examples include chlamydial infections and Mycobacterium tuberculosis, among others. According to a review published in the journal Recent Patents on Endocrine, Metabolic & Immune Drug Discovery:
“Melatonin’s protective action against sepsis is suggested to be due to its antioxidant, immunomodulating and inhibitory actions against the production and activation of pro-inflammatory mediators. Use of melatonin has been beneficial in treating premature infants suffering from severe respiratory distress syndrome and septic shock. It has a potential therapeutic value in treating septic shock and associated multi organ failure in critically ill patients in addition to its antimicrobial and antiviral actions.”
Although septic shock is normally linked with gram-negative bacteria, researches believe Ebola virus infections share a similar characteristic — namely, extreme lymphocyte apoptosis (white blood cell death).
Moreover, the deadly nature of an Ebola infection is, more or less, attributed to the destruction of the endothelial lining of blood vessels. The damage isn’t caused directly by the virus, but rather from a surge of immune and inflammatory responses. “Theoretically, if available treatments had the capacity to stop or reduce this excessive immuno-inflammatory cascade of reactions, it would provide some protection against the disruption of the endothelium and the coagulation abnormality caused by the Ebola virus; therefore, it would likely reduce the death rate,” noted scientists at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the Gulhane Medical School in Ankara, Turkey. The team believes that melatonin could stop this sequence, thereby helping maintain the stability of blood vessels.
“Melatonin is a potent free radical scavenger and an anti-inflammatory agent. It would predictably limit the oxidative stress and inflammatory injury that occurs in the infected endothelial cells and preserve their integrity. The ability of melatonin to protect the integrity of the endothelium of blood vessels was observed decades ago when melatonin reduced vascular permeability and inhibited the plasma leakage from capillaries caused by ischemia/reperfusion damage; this action has been reaffirmed many times subsequently.”
Researchers at Saint Louis University School of Medicine agree:
“Melatonin stimulates release of a tissue factor pathway inhibitor from the vascular endothelium, which could potentially reduce bleeding complications from excessive tissue factor release.
“Since melatonin has virtually no toxicity, along with conventional therapy, it would appear to have potential for treatment of ebola viral infection, to reduce complications such as organ failure, bleeding and shock, and possibly could reduce the mortality rate.”
Early intervention with melatonin is vital. A large dose (20 mg or more) several times per day, for a prolonged period, is recommended.
“Ebola virus disease: Potential use of melatonin as a treatment.” Dun-Xian Tan, Russel J. Reiter, Lucien C. Manchester, Department of Cellular and Structural Biology, the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, TX, United States. Retrieved on December 9, 2014, from: www.pubfacts.com
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