As we stand at the last leg of 2020, the world at large is desperately looking for a cure to battle COVID-19. 

To date, there is no such vaccine available that can be positively identified as a cure for the epidemic. 

Sure, we have leading nations like Russia declaring their COVID-19 vaccine, as they entered the final stage of human trials. However, things are still up in the air, as the effectiveness of the drug remains a mystery. 

In other words, we are still at ground zero battling the pandemic, and building up immunity against COVID-19 seems to be our best shot. Face masks, sanitizers, and social distancing seem to be our allies in the war against corona. 

A handful of recently published medical series showed how Chinese medical professionals made use of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) to treat severe cases of COVID-affected patients. Reportedly, the five patient case series where HBOT was adopted by Chinese doctors, depicted a marked improvement in mitigating COVID symptoms. 

A similar experience was reported from medicos in Louisiana, via a webinar. 

In both cases, the treatment and its efficacy are relatable to the experiences the doctors had during the Spanish Flu, way back in 1918. Nevertheless, the findings have triggered an added interest among attending medical professionals and researchers banking on HBOT as an off-label treatment to fight symptoms in severely affected COVID patients. 

This post is an attempt to mull over the idea of using HBOT as a potent option to build immunity against COVID-19, and whether it’s worth the effort.

A cue from the past 

 During the onset of the Spanish Flu in the US, the medical professionals had resorted to HBOT tackling hypoxia leading to respiratory failure. The Spanish Flu, much like corona, had induced pulmonary infection in a patient leaving doctors no time for an animal-based experiment before prescribing HBOT for humans. 

It was Dr. Cunningham, who had administered HBOT for just over an hour to a seriously ill patient showing remarkable improvement within a few days. The application of HBOT did wonders for others too. 

In the case of corona affected, respiratory failure arising out of pulmonary infection seems to be the underlying cause. While there is a considerable difference between the Spanish Flu and COVID-19, there is no denying the primary pathology occurs right within the lungs and the respiratory tract.

HBOT, identified by the FDA for a string of medical conditions, has been useful in building immunity against COVID-19. The steady flow of atmospheric oxygen right along the bloodstream penetrates the pulmonary secretions reducing inflammation. Besides, it also boosts the natural healing mechanism of the body. In all probability, HBOT when administered religiously to the COVID affected might be a life-saving attempt, quite similar to Spanish Flu.   

Can HBOT be the silver lining for a COVID-affected world? 

 Amidst all such speculations analyzing the efficacy of HBOT, clinical trials have ushered a moment of delight as COVID patients are being discharged from the hospital. Undeniably, with HBOT, the systemic elevation of oxygen level, the respiratory metabolic effects, and the transient hyperoxemia has always been misunderstood.

No wonder for more than 300 years and counting, HBOT and its trophic effects have been documented to aid medical research. One such mechanism recently formed the basis of explanation for epigenetic modulation via a direct hydrostatic pressure impact and gene hyperoxia for more than forty percent of protein coded genes.

The upregulated genes, the largest clusters are one of repair, growth, anti-inflammation, and cell signaling. On the other hand, we have the down-regulated genes which are pro-inflammatory, controlling the death of cells. As such, a typical HBOT session across multiple medical studies have depicted quite a dramatic effect upon the disease pathophysiology–inflammation, injury due to reperfusion, resuscitation, ARDS (Acute Respiratory Disease Syndrome), and reversal of oxygen debt arising from a cardiac arrest. 

Noticeably, the Chinese medical professionals, while discussing immunity against COVID-19 harped incessantly in treating inflammation, systemic hypoxia, modulating gene expression, and reversing oxygen debt. Their observations were in line with the patients’ gradual recovery, reacting positively to regular or periodic sessions of HBOT. 

There is absolutely no second thought that the implications of HBOT treating COVID cases are governed by the historical precedence of Spanish flu treatment. In their attempt to offer a life-saving procedure for the COVID affected, the medicos at work, and the authors of the report took time to explain their precautionary measures to contain and control the infection. As a matter of fact, no single member of the attending medical staff was infected during the procedure. 

Additionally, the medicos have advised to exercise extreme caution and enforce strict infection control measures while delivering HBOT to a covid affected patient. Failure to do so can turn the hyperbaric chambers itself to work as disease-causing vectors, amplifying the spread of infection by cross-contamination across one and all. 

Final thoughts 

 So, can HBOT mitigate COVID-19 symptoms and guarantee a full cure? Will the use of HBOT be soon recognized as an on-label treatment by the FDA? Will there be any side effects in the near future?  

These are interesting questions. However, the answer to these questions will remain due for some time. 

As we continue to brave the infection and build up immunity against COVID-19 by keeping our hands clean and faces protected, HBOT might be a temporary respite, considering the severity of infection, varying from person-to-person. 


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