Vitamin D for Covid-19 in Down syndrome

I get it. The Covid19 crisis has been going on for a while now and many are fatigued, frustrated, and downright fearful, especially if you are a parent of a child with Down syndrome. Back in October 2020, CNN released an article detailing a study that concluded that people with Down syndrome are more likely to die from a Covid-19 infection.

Unfortunately, this finding wasn't unexpected, at least for those of us who work closely with individuals with Down syndrome. People with DS are more likely to die from cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses like influenza, pneumonia, and respiratory failure in general [1] due to the effects DS has on the body.

Trisomy 21 has a unique effect on lung tissue, often impairing it's function. This is due, in part, to how Down syndrome affects the formation of certain lungs cells called cilia. Cilia are the tiny hair like cells that move foreign objects out of the lungs and into the nose and mouth for removal from the body (via coughs and sneezes).

Cilia remove foreign objects from the lungs through an upward beating motion.

These cells are essential in keeping foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses from getting deeper into the lungs and causing serious infections.

With Trisomy 21, the formation and function of cilia is often impaired because of the extra amount of a protein called pericentrin that's encoded for on the 21st chromosome. Typical individuals only have two copies of chromosome 21 and therefore only 2 copies of the gene that produces pericentrin. People with DS have 3.

Pericentrin acts as an anchoring protein and is essential for cell cycle regulation. The problem comes when there's too much of this protein. When there is too much pericentrin, as in DS, this protein almost acts like a glue, preventing the cilia from moving freely [2]. This decreases the cilia's ability to beat effectively which allows for the entry of more foreign invaders deeper into the lungs.

This obviously causes diseases like pneumonia and respiratory illness.

There are other reasons why people with DS are more likely to die from Covid-19 and other respiratory illnesses. These range from smaller nasal passages to increased autoinflammation which is common in DS[3].

Autoinflammation occurs when the innate immune system response doesn't work properly. There are two distinct parts to the human immune system, the innate or general immune system and the adaptive or specialized immune system.

While these two systems work closely with one another, they do play different roles in keeping the body safe from foreign invaders. For example, the innate immune system is the first line of defense when it comes to protecting the outside body against invaders. This part of the immune system protects the skin and mucus membranes (like inside the mouth) and responds exactly the same to all foreign invaders.

The adaptive immune system is more specialized in its approach to protecting the body by attacking the specific germ that is causing the infection [4].

In fact, both innate and adaptive immune system dysfunction are hallmarks of DS [5] and one of the biggest factors causing such susceptibility to Covid-19.

Since there appears to be greater virulence of the delta variant of Covid-19, the increased need for protection against Covid-19 for individuals with DS is more crucial now than ever.

What should you do to better protect your child?

With the talk of breakthrough infections in the vaccinated, is there anything else that can help support the immune system? While measures like handwashing and practicing good hygiene are essential, there is a powerhouse vitamin that can offer more give your child's immune system a boost.