The beneficial effects of weekly low-dose vitamin A supplementation on acute lower respiratory infections and diarrhea in Ecuadorian children.
Pediatrics. 1999 Jul ;104(1):e1. PMID: 10390287
BACKGROUND: Previous studies of large-dose vitamin A supplementation on respiratory morbidity have produced conflicting results in a variety of populations. The influence of malnutrition has not been examined in the majority of these trials. We hypothesized that weekly low-dose vitamin A supplementation would prevent respiratory and diarrheal disease morbidity and that malnutrition might influence the efficacy of vitamin A supplementation.
METHODS: In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled field trial of 400 children, 6 to 36 months of age in a high Andean urban slum, half of the children received 10 000 IU of vitamin A weekly and half received placebo for 40 weeks. Children were visited weekly at home by physicians and assessed for acute diarrheal disease and acute respiratory infections.
RESULTS: Acute diarrheal disease and acute respiratory infection did not differ globally or by severity between supplement-treated and placebo groups. However, the incidence of acute lower respiratory infection (ALRI) was significantly lower in underweight (weight-for-age z score [WAZ]<-2 SD) supplement-treated children than in underweight children on placebo (8.5 vs 22.3 per 10(3) child-weeks; rate ratio: 0.38 [95% CI: 0.17-0.85]). ALRI incidence was significantly higher in normal-weight (WAZ>-2 SD) supplement-treated children than in normal-weight children on placebo (9.8 vs 4.4 per 10(3) child-weeks; rate ratio: 2.21 [95% CI: 1.24-3.93]). By logistic regression analysis the risk of ALRI was lower in underweight supplement-treated children than in underweight children on placebo (point estimate 0.148 [95% CI: 0.034-0.634]). In contrast, risk of ALRI was higher in normal-weight supplement-treated children (WAZ>-1 SD to mean) than in normal-weight children on placebo in the same WAZ stratum (point estimate: 2.51 [95% CI: 1.24-5.05]). The risk of severe diarrhea was lower in supplement-treated children 18 to 23 months of age than in children on placebo in this age group (point estimate: 0.26 [95% CI: 0.06-1.00]).
CONCLUSIONS: Weekly low-dose (10 000 IU) vitamin A supplementation in a region of subclinical deficiency protected underweight children from ALRI and paradoxically increased ALRI in normal children with body weight over -1 SD. Protection from severe diarrhea was consistent with previous trials. Additional research is warranted to delineate potential beneficial and detrimental interactions between nutritional status and vitamin A supplementation regarding ALRI.