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Too little vitamin D in infants increases the risk of infection

May 12, 2011
Too little vitamin D in infants increases the risk of infection

Too little vitamin D in infants increases the risk of infection

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Babies born with low levels of vitamin D have high risk of developing a type of lung infection before their first birthday.

The infection is caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which inflames the small airways of the lungs, in what is known as bronchiolitis. It can also cause pneumonia.

In fact, RSV is the most common cause of pneumonia and bronchiolitis in infants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC for its acronym in English).

Researchers found that babies with abnormal levels of vitamin D at birth were six times more likely than others to have RSV bronchiolitis in the first year of life.

This, for researchers, opening the way for the possibility of getting enough vitamin D during pregnancy may prevent some infections due to RSV.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Louis Bont, the Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital in Utrecht, the Netherlands, said that for now, pregnant women must meet the general recommendation on the intake of vitamin D.

In the U.S., the Institute of Medicine has now raised the recommended dose of 600 international units (IU) per day and limit it to 4,000 IU daily.

Almost all children had RSV at 2 years old and most with mild symptoms. But between one and two of 10 developed bronchiolitis and one in 10 of them are hospitalized.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, included the most severe cases of RSV, infants with symptoms of bronchiolitis, wheezing and coughing as moderate to severe.

At baseline, the researchers found vitamin D levels in umbilical cord blood of 156 newborns.

27 percent had vitamin D levels considered abnormal. Another 27 percent had average levels that some experts considered too low, although there is controversy about it. The rest (46 percent) had adequate levels of vitamin D.

A 18 babies had confirmed RSV infection during the first year of life. Babies with the lowest levels of vitamin D at birth were six times more likely to develop an RSV infection than the group with normal levels.

Did not register this increased risk in children with levels of vitamin D.

Bont said that the results do not prove that only a high level of vitamin D at birth will prevent RSV infection, but could be other explanations for this relationship.

A researcher outside the studio is convinced that vitamin D does have a “real” effect on respiratory infections in infants.

“But we have to do more clinical trials,” said Dr. Carlos Camargo, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

In a study just published in Pediatrics and his team found that higher levels of vitamin D in infants were associated with a decreased risk of respiratory infections were, in general during the first three months of life.

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