Vitamin D from sunlight helps treat TB

Updated: Sep 04, 2012, 13:24 PM IST

London: Vitamin D could help the body fight infections of tuberculosis, enabling patients to recover faster from the deadly disease, a new study has found.

A study led by researchers at Queen Mary, University of London has shown that high doses of vitamin D, given in addition to antibiotic treatment help patients with tuberculosis (TB) recover more quickly.

The findings indicate that high doses of the vitamin can dampen down the body`s inflammatory response to infection with less damage to their lungs.

In addition to stimulating recovery in TB patients, results suggest that vitamin D supplementation might help patients recover better from other diseases such as pneumonia.

"These findings are very significant. They indicate that vitamin D may have a role in accelerating resolution of inflammatory responses in tuberculosis patients," Dr Adrian Martineau, senior lecturer in respiratory infection and immunity at the Blizard Institute, who led the research, said.

"This is important, because sometimes these inflammatory responses can cause tissue damage leading to the development of cavities in the lung. If we can help these cavities to heal more quickly, then patients should be infectious for a shorter period of time, and they may also suffer less lung damage," Martineau said in a statement.

"More broadly, the ability of vitamin D to dampen down inflammatory responses without compromising the actions of antibiotics raises the possibility that supplementation might also have benefits in patients receiving antimicrobial therapy for pneumonia, sepsis and other lung infections."

Researchers randomised 95 TB patients receiving standard antibiotic treatment into two groups: for the first eight weeks of their treatment, 44 received additional high dose vitamin D, while 51 received a placebo.

They then measured levels of inflammatory markers in blood samples taken from these patients to determine the effects vitamin D on the immune response.

"We found that a large number of these inflammatory markers fell further and faster in patients receiving vitamin D," said Dr Anna Coussens at the MRC`s National Institute for Medical Research, who collaborated in the study.

The researchers also found that Mycobacterium tuberculosis, that causes TB, was cleared from the sputum faster in patients` who were taking vitamin D.

The bacterium took an average of 23 days to become undetectable under the microscope compared to 36 days in the patients who were taking the placebo.

The study will be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.