Role of Vitamin A in Resistance to Infectious Disease

Vitamin A deficiency increases susceptibility to some types of infections, and there is currently an extensive literature regarding vitamin A deficiency and infection in experimental animal models (Clausen, 1934; Robertson, 1934; Scrimshaw et al., 1968; Beisel, 1982; Nauss, 1986; Semba, 1994). After an extensive global survey of vitamin A deficiency, Oomen et al. (1964) recognized that there was a vicious circle of vitamin A deficiency and infection: 'Not only may deficiency of vitamin A itself play an important role in lowering the resistance to infection ... but infectious diseases themselves predispose to and actually precipitate xerophthalmia.' There have been over 100 clinical trials of vitamin A conducted in humans, and these studies show that vitamin A supplementation can reduce morbidity and mortality due to measles and diarrhoeal disease, the morbidity of Plasmodium falciparum malaria and maternal morbidity and mortality related to pregnancy (see below). Vitamin A supplementation does not appear to reduce morbidity and mortality from acute lower respiratory infections or reduce mother-to-child transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) type 1 (see below).

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