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A Christchurch researcher is doing New Zealand's first study of vitamin C's potential as a treatment for intensive care patients with sepsis.

Dr Anitra Carr says sepsis is the main cause of death in intensive care patients and rates are increasing. Sepsis patients often develop cardiac dysfunction and dangerously low blood pressure. They are given drugs to stabilize their cardiovascular function.

Can vitamin C infusions stabilize heart function?

Dr Carr says vitamin C could provide an alternative treatment to heart-stabilizing drugs, that often come with side effects.

She will carry out a clinical trial in Christchurch where people with sepsis are given the vitamin to see if this intervention results in a better recovery or survival. She will be trying to find out whether the positive biological effects of vitamin C translate into an improvement in patient outcome, which has been reported in a smaller study overseas. She will also compare vitamin C levels with severity of illness and whether this contributes to progression of sepsis.

Dr Carr is doing the work with funding from the Health Research Council, as a Sir Charles Hercus Health Research Fellow.

"I'm very grateful for the funding because it allows me to carry out clinical research that could have a positive impact on the outcomes of critically ill people and potentially even save lives."

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