Vitamin D may speed tuberculosis recovery

Adrian Martineau

A new study by British scientists shows that high doses of vitamin D, given alongside antibiotic treatment, can help patients recover more quickly from tuberculosis.

Since the 1800s, before antibiotics were developed in the 1930s, TB patients were often sent on sunny retreats where they would soak up the sun’s rays in what was known as heliotherapy or phototherapy. The study of vitamin D, which is made when the body is exposed to sunlight, gives a look into why that therapy may have done some good, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Vitamin D dampens the body’s inflammatory response to infection, reducing damage to the lungs, according to the study.

“Sometimes these inflammatory responses can cause tissue damage leading to … cavities in the lung,” Adrian Martineau, a senior lecturer in respiratory infection and immunity at Queen Mary University in London and the leader of the study, said, the Chicago Tribune reports. “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.”

The study also showed that supplements of the vitamin may help speed recovery for such diseases as pneumonia, sepsis and other lung infections, because the vitamin doesn’t interfere with the actions of antibiotics.

In the recent study, 95 TB patients who were on standard antibiotic treatment were split into two groups, with 44 of them given high doses of vitamin D and the other 51 given placebos. Signs of inflammation were measured in blood samples to see what effect the vitamin D had on immune responses.

“We found that a large number of these inflammatory markers fell further and faster in patients receiving vitamin D,” Anna Coussens of Britain’s National Institute for Medical Research, said, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Vitamin D also helped clear Mycobacterium tuberculosis from the phlegm coughed up from deep in the lungs faster than those who were given the placebo.

Martineau said more research would be needed before they could recommend all TB patients take high-dose vitamin D alongside antibiotics, the Chicago Tribune reports.

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