Low-dose radiation therapy may help COVID-19 patients

Low-dose radiation therapy 

Last week I listened to a Dutch podcast, which in general discusses news and politics, but for once, talked about low-dose radiatian therapy as a way to treat COVID-19. This made me curious enough that I wanted to find out more about this particular treatment method.

Most of us know at least one person, whos's been treated with high-dose radiation order to get rid of a malignant tumor. It is less well known that low dosages can be used as well and is used in some countries to treat inflammation disorders such as arthritis.

In general, this is met with disbelief as the official point of view is "all radiation is harmful" .

Proof to the contrary

Yet, over 3000 scientific research papers show that low dose irradiation is stimulatory and/or beneficial in a wide variety of microbes, plants, invertebrates, and vertebrates.

In a 600 page report, the French Academy of Sciences document other groups subjected to unusual levels of ionizing radiation with either no harmful effect or beneficial effects.
A few examples are
- the incidence of solid cancers decreased in 21,500 exposed workers at Mayak, a Russian plutonium production complex.
- the total cancer deaths in 8,600 cleanup workers at Chernobyl (who received an average of 5 cGy) was 12% lower than that of the general Russian population.
- no increased cancer was found in 222,400 radiologists and radiation technicians who received more than 20 cGy in 20 years.

Other more compelling evidence comes from Taiwan where in 1983, about 10,000 Taipei residents moved into new apartments built with cobalt-60 contaminated steel bars. For two decades residents received an average radiation that was about 10 times higher than ambient levels in Taipei.
In the first decade the cancer mortality rate of this exposed population dropped from 50 to 4 per 100,000 people while that of general population increased from 82 to 108 per 100,000.
In the second decade the cancer death rate of the exposed residents remained at 3 per 100,000 people and that of the aging general population rose to 153 per 100,000. The Taiwan experience confirms reports from China.

A decades long epidemiologic study in China showed peasants living with three times the levels of natural radiation are more healthy in almost every characteristic than peasants living with lower levels of radiation.

Yet another example: in 1949, sterility in American women was successfully treated with low dose irradiation.
Three generations showed no adverse effects. There was no evidence of genetic damage from 351 pregnancies in 644 irradiated women. Far from it: "the incidence of genetic damage to the children and grandchildren of this group is less than that in the normal population."


Low dose irradiation activates the immune system in several ways: faster wound healing, and increased resistance to toxins, infections, and tumor cell injections.
Lymphocyte production was increased by low dose irradiation. The search and destroy function of lymphocytes is facilitated by destruction of the radiation sensitive T repressor cells; this allows other T cells to be more efficient.
When compared with strict controls, cancer mortality rates were significantly decreased (almost 50%) in accidentally irradiated nuclear workers.

Cell concentrations of many important components of the immune system (enzymes and metabolites) are increased by low dose irradiation of the host.

For the first four decades of the last century, low dose irradiation (“mild radiation therapy”) was the recommended treatment for many human disease states; it was particularly effective for infections from anaerobic bacteria.
Low dose irradiation was recommended for the non-invasive treatment of gas gangrene and severe ulcerative gingivitis.

Low doses of radon are also effective. Good scientific data came from thousands of patients at two large radon hospitals in Russia. Every year, thousands of people visit radon rich mines to alleviate a wide variety of diseases and pains with and without the concurrence of the medical profession. Anecdotes about improved health and relieved pain by these patients are substantially ignored.

Radiation therapy 

Numerous reviews indicate the value of low-dose radiation therapy for skin eruptions, eye infections, pneumonia, and gangrene. 
Low dose irradiation became popular and effective therapy for some cancers.
Between 1910–1950 hundreds of thousands of patients (no one knows how many) received millicuries (no one knows how much) of radium.

The successes of radiation therapy for infection and inflammatory diseases abruptly ended in 1948. The financial advantage of antibiotics, the miracle drugs of World War II, made therapy with low dose irradiation obsolete. 
The "radiation phobia" propagated by the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission set up after the atomic-bomb detonations over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 was the nail in the coffin.

Use for COVID-19 patients

The current Covid-19 caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus has registered a much higher death rate than the usual flu and cold viruses.
Increased incidence of death rate has to do with severity of infection.
The spectrum of clinical symptoms of the patients with SARS-CoV-2 is broad and encompasses asymptomatic infection , mild and moderate to severe illnesses of the upper respiratory tract , severe pneumonia, and respiratory failure leading to death.

Severe COVID-19 cases cause cytokine release syndrome, also known as a cytokine storm. Such a storm is a deadly uncontrolled systemic inflammatory response of the body’s immune system resulting from the release of great amounts of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which act as a major factor in producing Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), which is what kills.
It’s why ventilators and ICU beds are needed for severely ill COVID-19 patients, and why this pandemic can overwhelm hospital systems.

In Germany, the habit to treat patients with low-dose radiation did not stop entirely after the war, but continued. Patients are treated with low-dose radiation for several non-malignant ailments including arthritis.

That's why German docotors also started using low-dose radiation for seriously ill COVID-19 patients, since röntgen therapy was used during the first half of the 20th century to successfully treat viral pneumonia.
As expected, low-dose- radiation could effectively remove the inflammation of the lungs.

Currently, more human medical trials have begun on severely ill COVID-19 patients in the USA and other countries as well.
The doses used to address the inflammation from COVID-19 will be up to 50 times lower than those used for cancer treatments, which carry little to no risk.

In one such trial, patients were given a single low-dose of radiation (1,5 Gray, a radiation unit) to both lungs for a duration of up to 15 minutes.
Within 24 hours, four of the patients showed rapid improvement in oxygenation and mental status (more awake, alert and talkative) and were being discharged from the hospital 12 days later. Blood tests and repeated imaging of the lungs confirmed that the radiation was safe and effective, and did not cause adverse effects - no acute skin, pulmonary, gastrointestinal or genitourinary toxicities.
It’s the anti-inflammatory effects of radiation, not its antiviral action, and it’s these anti-inflammatory effects that is invaluable in helping patients with COVID-19 and that were demonstrated in this trial.

This system, allowing the inflammation to subside, and the patient would breathe easier for one or two weeks, giving their adaptive immune system the opportunity to destroy all the infected cells.

Past studies also show that low-dose radiation regulates lymphocyte counts, controls bacterial co-infections, and can modulate excessive inflammatory responses, exactly what is needed for COVID-19 patients.

Why low-dose radiation is a better idea than antiviral drugs

Low-dose radiation does not directly target the microbe, it targets the host's immune reaction. Not so for biochemicals such as antivirals and antibiotics. These work directly against the offending microbes. If they clear each and every last virion, or infective particle, then they are successful.
But if they do not exterminate every last virion, there is a selective pressure that can cause them to evolve through mutations, strongly favoring survivors. It’s why we have so many drug-resistant infections.

In contrast to antiviral drugs, a dose of X-rays does not exert a significant selective pressure on the SARS-CoV-2 virus and hence does not lead to resistance.

As we try lots of possible solutions to rein in the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, we need to use every tool we have, and low-dose radiation therapy may be an important one. It would be unethical not to investigate this approach as thousands are still dying every day from this pandemic and a vaccine is a long ways off.

Every hospital and cancer center has radiation treatment units for cancer, so there's no new preparation, additional equipment, or training needed. Every hospital could have been doing this since the pandemic began and saved tens of thousands of lives.

A suggestion to return to the low cost, effective therapy without any side effects comes at a time when one of the private drug manufacturers has announced how the new vaccine for Covid-19 will come at a cost of €450 for each course and isn't known to be truly effective since the SARS-CoV-2 virus has undergone several mutations already.

We can't wait much longer and need to treat mildly ill patients with HCQ and zinc, while using low-dose radiation therapy for seriously ill patients. The longer we dawdle, the more people will die.

Want to read more about radiation therapy? Radiation: hormesis: the good , the bad and the ugly

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