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Vitamin D Can Help Infection-Prone Patients Avoid Respiratory Tract Infection

A new study published in the online scientific journal BMJ Open has found that treating infection-prone patients over a 12-month period with high doses of vitamin D reduces their risk of developing respiratory tract infection — and consequently their antibiotic requirement.

Researchers examined whether treatment with vitamin D can prevent and relieve respiratory tract infections in particularly infection-prone patients. All the 140 participants had symptoms of disease in their respiratory tracts for at least 42 days prior to the study. The patients were randomly divided into two groups, one of which received vitamin D in relatively high doses, the other a placebo. They were also asked to keep a diary recording their state of health every day during the year-long study period.

The results show that symptoms of respiratory tract infection declined by almost a quarter and the use of antibiotics by almost half. Vitamin D treatment was also tolerated well by all patients and gave no serious side-effects.

The effect of vitamin D on respiratory tract infection is controversial, and a major study from New Zealand published recently in the scientific journal JAMA found that it did not reduce the incidence or severity of viral respiratory tract infections. However, the present study differs from the JAMA study in several important respects, which could explain their different results. The JAMA study examined a group of healthy people with initially normal levels of vitamin D in the blood, and used bolus dose administration (i.e. large doses on fewer occasions), which is thought to be less effective that daily doses. The current study participants had much lower initial levels of vitamin D than those in the JAMA study.

The researchers concluded that their study suggested that it would be wise to check the vitamin D levels of patients with recurrent infections. Further, their research may have important implications for patients with recurrent infections or a compromised immune defence, such as a lack of antibodies, and may also help to prevent the emerging resistance to antibiotics through overuse.

Bergman P et al. Vitamin D3 supplementation in patients with frequent respiratory tract infections: a randomised and double-blind intervention study. BMJ Open, 2012; 2: 6 e001663 DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001663

Categories: Nutritional News