London: Vitamin D, a vitamin synthesized by the body when exposed to sunlight, can help the body fight infections of deadly tuberculosis, researchers say.
According to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, patients who were given vitamin D in combination with antibiotics recovered from tuberculosis (TB) more quickly than those who just took antibiotics, the BBC reported.
More tests would be needed before it could be given to patients routinely.
Vitamin D was used to treat the lung infection long before antibiotics were discovered, with patients being prescribed “forced sunbathing”, known as heliotherapy.
However, the treatment disappeared when antibiotics proved successful at treating the disease.
Tuberculosis kills close to 1.5 million people each year, and many strains of tuberculosis are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics - rendering it untreatable.
Researchers from Queen Mary University in London looked at 95 patients who had non-resistant TB.
Those who took the combination of antibiotics and vitamin D recovered two weeks faster than those who did not take vitamin D.
According to BBC News, patients who only took antibiotics took an average of 36 days to recover while patients who took both vitamin D and antibiotics recovered in just 23 days on average.
“This isn’t going to replace antibiotics, but it may be a useful extra weapon,” Dr. Adrian Martineau, one of the researchers from Queen Mary University, told BBC News.
“It looks promising, but we need slightly stronger evidence,” Martineau added.
Vitamin D appears to work by calming inflammation during the infection. An inflammatory response is an important part of the body’s response to infection.
During TB infection, it breaks down some of the scaffolding in the lungs letting more infection-fighting white blood cells in. However, this also creates tiny cavities in the lungs in which TB bacteria can camp out.
“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,” Dr Martineau said.
The doctors suggested this might also help in other lung diseases such as pneumonia and sepsis.