Is Ebola Caused by Vitamin C Deficiency? Could It Be Blocked By Green Tea?

I got an email asking about whether Ebola is caused by a lack of vitamin C. While enticing, the explanation that the Ebola virus simply drains all the vitamin C out of an individual seems simplistic. The analogy to scurvy, which involves the breakdown of connective tissue over months, doesn’t hold well. But I went looking.

If you look at the cases and treatment of Ebola, blood transfusions from previous patients who have antibodies to the virus beats the heck out of vitamin C transfusions. One infected nurse¬†was treated with “oral rehydration solution, vitamin C, intravenous calcium, and papaverine. On 6 June, the nurse was transfused with 400 cm3 of blood. Two days later, her appetite improved, and the myalgia had disappeared.” If it was caused by Vitamin C depletion, we should have seen improvement following treatment with Vitamin C. The blood of other patients, presumably also depleted of Vitamin C, would have done nothing. Instead, it was their antibodies that saved her. If there are cases that were saved with vitamin C, I couldn’t find them.

Now, since I was looking at simple, household treatments for Ebola, I found this interesting study: “HSPA5 is an essential host factor for Ebola virus infection…using the HSPA5 inhibitor (-)- epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) … impaired viral replication and protected animals in a lethal infection model.” (study here).

If your brain works like mine does, you’d think: “that compound looks familiar, where have I seen that before?”

Green tea. EGCG makes up almost half of the catechins in green tea. So if they’re right, and HSPA5 is necessary for the Ebola infection to take hold in a host, then drinking green tea might be protective?

What exactly would be the downside to providing healthcare workers with green tea? Or drinking green tea on the plane when traveling?

I wouldn’t go so far as to jump to any conclusions, but if they’re offering green tea in the cockpit service, I might indulge.


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