Prof Rinaldo Bellomo


Professor Rinaldo Bellomo

Australian first trial investigates power of high dose vitamin C

10 December 2018

Everyone has heard the saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away'. But what about an orange? Or what about the equivalent of 100 oranges worth of vitamin C delivered intravenously?

An Australian-first study initiated by Intensive Care doctors at Austin Health and conducted in collaboration with all major Intensive Care Units in Melbourne is looking at the benefits of using vitamin C to help manage complications in patients who have contracted infections.

Lead researcher, Professor Rinaldo Bellomo, said the study is looking at how high dosage vitamin C treatment can help the 50 million people worldwide who suffer from sepsis due to infection each year.

"Sepsis is a life-threatening condition caused by the body's natural response to infection," Professor Bellomo said.

"Our immune system releases chemicals into the bloodstream to help fight off infections but if our body reacts negatively to these chemicals then this can result in a condition known as septic shock, which is life threatening and can be fatal without appropriate care.

"One in five patients in Australia who develop septic shock pass away even with intensive care support but this number is three times higher in patients who live in less affluent countries."

"The aim of this study is to determine whether administering a high dose of vitamin C in conjunction with other medication can help to bring septic shock under control more quickly and lead to better outcomes for patients.

"What we are talking about is very large doses of vitamin C to treat what can be a deadly condition".

"The average sized orange contains between 50-70 milligrams of vitamin C but the trial is looking at the effect administering 1500 milligrams of vitamin C to patients, four times a day. That's 6000 milligrams in total or the vitamin C content of approximately 100 oranges per day.

"We hope to be able to demonstrate a reduction in organ injury and increased survival rates," he said.

Professor Bellomo said the trial is looking at the impact on patients in Brazil and New Zealand as well as here in Australia.

"Sepsis and septic shock are global issues," he said.

"We have just enrolled our 100th patient in the study, a key milestone as we're aiming to track the impact on 200 patients worldwide.

"Illnesses that weaken the immune system increase the risk of sepsis in patients and the number of cases around the world is going up each year as populations age and resistance to antibiotics becomes more common," Professor Bellomo said.

The study will run for another 12 months and has attracted funding from the Intensive Care Foundation in Australia and the PROADI (Institutional Development Support Program) via the Ministry of Health in Brazil.