Researchers are finding new possibilities an over-the-counter supplement - melatonin - best known as sleep aid.
Scientists at the Cleveland Clinic have discovered it’s a potential way to help prevent or treat COVID-19.
Lead researcher Dr. Feixiong Cheng, Ph.D., and his team used artificial intelligence to comb through a COVID-19 registry at the Cleveland Clinic, which included nearly 27,000 people. They found people who take melatonin are nearly 28% less likely to test positive for COVID.
The difference is even more significant for African Americans – the study said, “Importantly, melatonin usage is associated with a 52% reduced likelihood of a positive laboratory test result for SARS-CoV-2 in African Americans.”
“When we got this result, we were very excited,” Dr. Cheng said in a Zoom call with KIRO 7. “If our findings can help the patients, that’s our goal and mission - and at the Cleveland Clinic as well,” he said.
The study was published in early November, but an article published by The Atlantic on the connection between COVID and sleep sparked new buzz about the research.
“I read the article about melatonin and sleep and I was like, I already take melatonin every day!” said Ruth Harvey, who lives in Seattle. “I said that’s great, maybe I’m doing the right thing to stay healthy - it’s really encouraging,” she said.
President Trump was also given melatonin while he was in the hospital for COVID-19 in October.
“Is it because people are getting better sleep that they’re less susceptible to the virus? Or is it because of the melatonin?” KIRO7′s Deedee Sun asked Cheng.
“The exact mechanism we don’t know yet, but more and more data comes out that support our hypothesis,” Cheng said.
He said studies increasingly show melatonin does much more than just help people sleep – it also can help regulate the immune system.
Other studies have shown melatonin “reduces chronic and acute inflammation.” New clinical trials are now underway to see how much it helps patient outcomes in COVID treatments, including one at the Cleveland Clinic involving Cheng’s team.
Another study conducted by researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (Department of Biomedical Informatics) looked at thousands of COVID-19 intubated patients, and found when patients were exposed to melatonin after getting intubated, they had better outcomes. The researchers recommended further study based on those findings, saying they could not adjust for all variables in the study.
“Melatonin can also help us improve our human body – what we call tolerance. To help us reduce the tissue or organ damage induced by COVID infection,” Cheng said.
Other clinical trials for over the counter supplements including Zinc, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D are underway too.
“That might actually get me to take vitamins,” said Harlem Petersen, a student in Seattle.
Cheng said a clinical trial is underway that will answer the question of whether melatonin is causing improved outcomes when it comes to COVID. He said the study should be complete in a few months.