A new study by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine has found that hospitalized COVID-19 patients had significantly increased levels of oxidative stress and oxidant damage, according to Science Daily.

The study, published in the journal Antioxidants, also found that patients hospitalized with COVID-19 had markedly reduced levels of glutathione, an antioxidant.

The findings suggest that supplementation with Glycine and N-acetylcysteine (GlyNAC) might be beneficial for COVID-19 patients. GlyNAC is a combination of glutathione precursors, which has been shown to reduce oxidative stress and oxidant damage and increase glutathione.

The study’s corresponding author Dr. Rajagopal Sekhar said, “Increased oxidative stress and reduced glutathione levels are associated with a number of conditions including aging, diabetes, HIV infection, neurodegenerative disorders, cardiovascular disorders, neurometabolic diseases, obesity, and others.”

“We suspected that COVID-19 also might be affecting oxidative stress and glutathione, and in this study, we confirmed this in adults hospitalized with COVID-19,” he added. “We found that these defects occur in all adult age groups including young people, and worsen with increasing age.”

Dr. Sekhar’s previous work has shown that the levels of oxidative stress, oxidative damage, and glutathione remain stable in healthy individuals until they enter their 60s. After 60, oxidative stress and oxidative damage begin to increase and glutathione to decline. However, COVID-19 infection changed this pattern, he said.

The team organized the samples in three different groups, according to the age of the COVID-19 patients – the 21- to 40-year-old group, the 41 to 60, and the 61 and above.

Dr. Sekhar said, “We were surprised to see that the COVID-19 patients in the 21 to 40 and the 41 to 60 groups had much less glutathione and more oxidative stress than the corresponding age groups without COVID-19.”

“We knew that healthy people without COVID-19 above the age of 60 years tend to be glutathione-deficient and have elevated oxidative stress,” he added. “However, when the 60-plus age group gets COVID-19, their glutathione levels were much lower and oxidative stress was much higher than those of a similar age but without COVID-19.”

Dr. Sekhar, who is an associate professor of Medicine-Endocrinology at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, said, “This is an important new discovery. The finding that younger people with COVID-19 also are glutathione deficient and have elevated oxidative stress and oxidant damage is really surprising because we do not normally see these defects in younger age groups.”

“These defects appear to get progressively worse with increasing age, and the oldest patients with COVID-19 had a higher level of defects in these outcomes,” he explained. “We propose that these changes might be involved in the disease.”

According to Dr. Sekhar’s previous research, increased levels of oxidative stress and reduced glutathione are present not only present in older people but also in people with HIV and diabetes. “We also found that supplementing GlyNAC, a combination of glutathione precursors, improved these defects in all these populations,” he said.