The ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 has quickly become a daunting challenge to global health. In the absence of satisfied therapy, effective treatment interventions are urgently needed. Previous studies have demonstrated that acupuncture is effective at relieving common symptoms of COVID-19 including breathlessness, nausea, insomnia, leukopenia, fatigue, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
Experiments have shown that nitric oxide inhibits the replication cycle of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus with similar structures of COVID-19. Increase in level of nitric oxide by using nitric oxide gas inhalation has been shown to restore lung function by reducing airway resistance and improving virus-induced lung infections in SARS patients.
Recent case report showed that a medical acupuncturist with symptoms consistent with severe COVID pneumonia achieved full recovery by self-administered medical acupuncture and cupping therapy at home. Clinical features and pathophysiology demonstrated that nitric oxide deficiency and endothelial dysfunction contribute to the development of COVID-19.
Several studies from different groups consistently demonstrated that acupuncture increases nitric oxide synthase expression and induces an elevation of nitric oxide production and release in plasma and the local skin regions in both animals and humans.
It is suggested that exogenous nitric oxide supplies or interventions that induce increasing levels of nitric oxide can play an important role in protective effects against inflammation and acute lung injury.
This article reviews the rationale for mechanisms of nitric oxide induction induced by acupuncture in the possible treatment of COVID-19 and highlights its potential for contributing to better clinical outcomes and improving future clinical studies of acupuncture on treatment of COVID-19.