[New York Post]
Melatonin, a dietary supplement often used by insomnia sufferers, could be used to possibly help prevent or treat COVID-19, according to researchers at the Cleveland Clinic.
The hormone — which regulates the sleep-wake cycle — was associated with an almost 30 percent reduced likelihood of contracting the disease, the scientists said in research published in the journal PLOS Biology, KIRO 7 reported.
Additional studies are required about the over-the-counter supplement, the researchers said.
“It is very important to note these findings do not suggest people should start to take melatonin without consulting their physician,” lead researcher Feixiong Cheng of the Cleveland Clinic’s Genomic Medicine Institute said in a statement, WebMD reported.
“Large-scale observational studies and randomized controlled trials are critical to validate the clinical benefit of melatonin for patients with COVID-19,” he added. “But we are excited about the associations put forth in this study and the opportunity to further explore them.”
Cheng and his team used artificial intelligence to sift through a COVID-19 registry of nearly 27,000 people at the hospital. They found that people who take melatonin are nearly 28 percent less likely to test positive.
The difference is even more significant among blacks.
“Importantly, melatonin usage is associated with a 52 percent reduced likelihood of a positive laboratory test result for SARS-CoV-2 in African Americans,” the study said.
The study was published last month, but an article in The Atlantic on the connection between the coronavirus and sleep sparked new interest about the research, the outlet reported.
“I read the article about melatonin and sleep and I was like, ‘I already take melatonin every day!’” Seattle resident Ruth Harvey told KIRO 7. “I said, ‘That’s great, maybe I’m doing the right thing to stay healthy.’ It’s really encouraging.”
President Trump also received melatonin — in addition to zinc, vitamin D, famotidine and aspirin — while he was hospitalized with COVID-19 in October.
He was treated with experimental polyclonal antibodies, the antiviral drug remdesivir and the steroid dexamethasone.
When asked if people who take melatonin are less susceptible to the virus because they are getting better sleep or because of the supplement itself, Cheng said researchers don’t know the “exact mechanism” yet.
“But more and more data comes out that support our hypothesis,” he told KIRO 7, adding that studies increasingly show melatonin also can help regulate the immune system.
Other studies also have shown that melatonin reduces chronic and acute inflammation, the station reported.
“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.
Meanwhile, a study of thousands of intubated COVID-19 patients conducted at Columbia University Irving Medical Center found that when they were exposed to melatonin after getting intubated, they had better outcomes, KIRO 7 reported.
The researchers recommended additional study based on those findings.
And at the University of Toronto, researchers found that melatonin can be added to increase the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines, according to News-Medical.net.
Eight clinical trials are underway around the world to see if the melatonin findings bear out, according to The Atlantic, which noted that if the widely available sleep hormone does prove to help people, it would be the cheapest and most readily accessible medicine to counter the deadly bug.