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Infect Immun. Jan 1996; 64(1): 209–214.
PMCID: PMC173747

Vitamin A deficiency predisposes to Staphylococcus aureus infection.


We have investigated the consequences of vitamin A deficiency in a rat model of T-cell-dependent and superantigen-mediated Staphylococcus aureus arthritis. After intravenous inoculation of enterotoxin A-producing staphylococci, the vitamin-A-deficient rats showed a decreased weight gain compared with the paired fed controls despite equal food consumption. The control rats developed arthritis in the first few days after bacterial inoculation, with a peak frequency at day 5, and then gradually recovered; however, the frequency of arthritis 18 days after bacterial inoculation was 86% among the vitamin A-deficient rats and 44% among the control rats. During this period, 3 of 10 deficient rats and 1 of 10 control rats died. Further in vitro analysis revealed that T-cell responses to S. aureus were significantly higher in the vitamin A-deficient rats than in the control animals. In contrast, B-cell reactivity, measured as immunoglobulin levels, autoantibody levels, and specific antibacterial antibody levels in serum, did not differ between the groups. Interestingly, the innate host defense mechanisms against S. aureus were also profoundly affected by vitamin A deficiency. Thus, despite a larger number of circulating phagocytic cells in the vitamin-A-deficient group, the capacity to phagocytize and exert intracellular killing of S. aureus was significantly decreased in comparison with the control rats. Furthermore, serum from the vitamin A-deficient rats inoculated with Staphylococcus aureus displayed decreased complement lysis activity. Our results suggest that the increased susceptibility to S. aureus infection observed in the vitamin-A-deficient rats is due to a concerted action of antigen-specific T-cell hyperactivity, impaired function of the phagocytes, and decreased complement activity.

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Selected References

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