As the world waits on pins and needles for a vaccine, acupuncture could offer relief to those suffering from the coronavirus.
A new study out of Harvard Medical School found that acupuncture can help ease inflammation in mice.
The traditional Chinese practice influenced rodents’ ability to cope with a cytokine storm — an overly aggressive immune response which has been found to lead to lung inflammation, pneumonia and death in some COVID-19 patients, according to the study published Wednesday in the journal Neuron.
A number of drugs are currently being tested to try and quell the sometimes lethal reaction, but the Harvard researchers say this classic Chinese medical practice may be the answer.
“This is exciting news,” acupuncturist Sara Reznikoff, who was not affiliated with the study, told The Post. “It’s always nice when Western studies back up the ancient healing medical system of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine.”
The findings, however, don’t surprise her.
“Acupuncture is fantastic at triggering the body’s innate healing abilities, helping with inflammation and calming the nervous system. I have seen great results at my practice, treating patients with post-COVID-19 symptoms,” said Reznikoff, who runs her own practice. “I’m glad that acupuncture is being considered in the fight against COVID19 — anything that helps.”
While the findings are relevant now, they could have implications long after the world recovers from the pandemic, the researchers said.
Cytokine storms have “gained mainstream attention as a complication of severe COVID-19, but this aberrant immune reaction can occur in the setting of any infection and has been long known to physicians as a hallmark of sepsis, an organ-damaging, often-fatal inflammatory response to infection” a press release for the study explained.
Another study described the response as such: “The term ‘cytokine storm’ calls up vivid images of an immune system gone awry and an inflammatory response flaring out of control.”
In the new study, researchers found that mice experiencing a cytokine storm had a 40% greater chance of survival when treated with electroacupuncture. As well, acupuncture worked well as a preventative practice: Mice treated with acupuncture before developing a cytokine storm experienced lower levels of inflammation and their survival rate increased from 20 to 80%.
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