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Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by the body’s innate immune response to acute infection. Under some circumstances, aspects of this response that are typically associated with defense against infection can induce extensive cell and tissue damage, leading to multiple organ failure, the hallmark of sepsis. Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a common sepsis-associated injury that can lead to respiratory failure and death. A 2019 phase 2 trial found that intravenous vitamin C reduced death rates among patients with sepsis and ARDS.

The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial took place in seven medical intensive care units in the United States over a period of three years. The study participants included 167 male and female patients (average age, 55 years) with sepsis and ARDS. Every six hours for four days, the patients received either intravenous vitamin C (50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight) or a placebo.

The authors of the study noted a substantial difference in the death rates for the two groups. Whereas approximately 30 percent of patients who received intravenous vitamin C died, more than 46 percent of patients who took the placebo died. Patients who received vitamin C also had fewer ventilated days, spent less time in intensive care (seven days versus ten), and their hospital stays were approximately one week shorter than those who received the placebo.

These findings suggest that intravenous vitamin C administration might be beneficial in critically ill patients who have sepsis and respiratory failure.

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