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Vitamin D Helps People with TB (Tuberculosis)

Update Date: Sep 04, 2012 12:05 PM EDT

In the years before medicine and doctors were trusted advocates of the sick, heliotherapy (using the sun to combat illness) was a common method used to battle anything from the common cold to Tuberculosis (TB). The oddest part is that, in the case of the latter and if diagnosed and treated early enough, it actually worked. Why?

Scientists at the Queen Mary University of London explain that high doses of vitamin D, given in addition to antibiotic treatment, helps patients with TB recover more quickly.

Soon-to-be published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of the USA, the study is the first of its kind to investigate the effect of vitamin D on the immune responses of patients receiving treatment for an infectious disease.

The results show that high doses of the vitamin can "dampen down the body's inflammatory response to infection, enabling patients to recover faster, with less damage to their lungs." Therefore, Vitamin D supplementation may help not only TB patients recover but fight off other diseases as well, such as pneumonia.

"These findings indicate that vitamin D may have a role in accelerating resolution of inflammatory responses in tuberculosis patients and ---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," says Dr. Adrian Martineau, senior lecturer in respiratory infection and immunity at the Blizard Institute, part of Queen Mary, University of London, who led the research.

Researchers note that it may still be too early to recommend that all TB patients or patients suffering from other chronic pulmonary diseases to supplement their treatment with high-doses of vitamin D.

"We are hoping to do more work to evaluate the effects of higher doses and different forms of vitamin D to see if they have a more dramatic effect,"says Dr Anna Coussens at the MRC's National Institute for Medical Research.

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