Vitamin D Supplementation in Deficient Children Fails to Lower Tuberculosis Risk

By Reuters Staff

July 23, 2020

(Reuters Health) - A large study in Mongolia has concluded that vitamin D supplementation does not reduce the risk of contracting latent tuberculosis in children deficient in the vitamin.

TB is typically acquired in childhood, although reactivation often occurs in adulthood. School children with vitamin D deficiency tend to be more susceptible to a latent infection and the vitamin seems to boost immunity to mycobacterial infection among people who are in contact with someone with TB.

So in a phase 3 double-blind test in a country with a lot of tuberculosis and vitamin D deficiency, a team led by Davaasambuu Ganmaa of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, gave weekly oral supplements of 14,000 IU to 4,418 children and placebo to 4,433.

At baseline, 95.6% of children had a serum 25(OH)D level of less than 20 ng per milliliter, the authors note. The mean 25(OH)D level at the end of the trial was 31.0 ng/ml in the vitamin D group and 10.7 ng/ml in the placebo group, they report in The New England Journal of Medicine.

After three years, 3.6% of the vitamin D recipients had evidence of tuberculosis infection versus 3.3% in the placebo group (P=0.42).

The disease was actually diagnosed in 21 children (0.5%) who received the extra vitamin D and 25 children (0.6%) who did not.

In addition, 29 children in the vitamin D group were hospitalized for treatment of acute respiratory infection versus 34 among vitamin D-deficient children who received placebo, a non-significant difference.

The supplementation produced no evidence of serious adverse events.

SOURCE: The New England Journal of Medicine, online July 22, 2020.