Pneumonia is a severe lower respiratory tract infection that is a common complication and a major cause of mortality of the vitamin C-deficiency disease scurvy. This suggests an important link between vitamin C status and lower respiratory tract infections. Due to the paucity of information on the vitamin C status of patients with pneumonia, we assessed the vitamin C status of 50 patients with community-acquired pneumonia and compared these with 50 healthy community controls. The pneumonia cohort comprised 44 patients recruited through the Acute Medical Assessment Unit (AMAU) and 6 patients recruited through the Intensive Care Unit (ICU); mean age 68 ± 17 years, 54% male. Clinical, microbiological and hematological parameters were recorded. Blood samples were tested for vitamin C status using HPLC with electrochemical detection and protein carbonyl concentrations, an established marker of oxidative stress, using ELISA. Patients with pneumonia had depleted vitamin C status compared with healthy controls (23 ± 14 µmol/L vs. 56 ± 24 µmol/L, p
< 0.001). The more severe patients in the ICU had significantly lower vitamin C status than those recruited through AMAU (11 ± 3 µmol/L vs. 24 ± 14 µmol/L, p
= 0.02). The pneumonia cohort comprised 62% with hypovitaminosis C and 22% with deficiency, compared with only 8% hypovitaminosis C and no cases of deficiency in the healthy controls. The pneumonia cohort also exhibited significantly elevated protein carbonyl concentrations compared with the healthy controls (p
< 0.001), indicating enhanced oxidative stress in the patients. We were able to collect subsequent samples from 28% of the cohort (mean 2.7 ± 1.7 days; range 1–7 days). These showed no significant differences in vitamin C status or protein carbonyl concentrations compared with baseline values (p
= 0.6). Overall, the depleted vitamin C status and elevated oxidative stress observed in the patients with pneumonia indicates an enhanced requirement for the vitamin during their illness. Therefore, these patients would likely benefit from additional vitamin C supplementation to restore their blood and tissue levels to optimal. This may decrease excessive oxidative stress and aid in their recovery.
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