Could the hormone melatonin play a role in COVID-19 treatment?

Bottom Line:

Melatonin has been used to treat respiratory diseases in the past due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects, and may be a valuable component in the treatment of COVID-19.

Reference:

Zhang, R. et al. COVID-19: Melatonin as a potential adjuvant treatment. Life Sciences (2020). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lfs.2020.117583

Date Published:

23 March 2020

Synopsis:

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the body, and it is best known for its role in regulating the body’s sleep cycle. Beyond being a sleep hormone, melatonin is also an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative substance, and these properties are important for treating COVID-19. The lungs of patients with COVID-19 are in a highly inflammatory state, and this excessive inflammation damages the lung tissue. Patients with advanced COVID-19 are often given supplementary oxygen to help their breathing, which has the unfortunate side effect of increasing ‘oxygen radicals’ (byproducts of oxygen metabolism that are dangerous to cells). In theory, the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties of melatonin could reduce the excessive inflammation and oxygen radical levels that occur in COVID-19. There is some evidence supporting this idea; melatonin supplements have been used to treat both respiratory diseases and viral infections in the past. Furthermore, studies of melatonin treatment in a non-SARS-CoV-2 lung virus have been found to decrease lung injury. While melatonin by itself is unlikely to be adequate treatment for COVID-19, incorporating melatonin supplements into an overall treatment regimen could lead to improved results which makes further research into this area worthwhile.

Summary by: Jacob Ferguson