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PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e29631. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029631. Epub 2012 Jan 3.

Vitamins A & D inhibit the growth of mycobacteria in radiometric culture.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Bronx, New York, United States of America.



The role of vitamins in the combat of disease is usually conceptualized as acting by modulating the immune response of an infected, eukaryotic host. We hypothesized that some vitamins may directly influence the growth of prokaryotes, particularly mycobacteria.


The effect of four fat-soluble vitamins was studied in radiometric Bactec® culture. The vitamins were A (including a precursor and three metabolites,) D, E and K. We evaluated eight strains of three mycobacterial species (four of M. avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP), two of M. avium and two of M. tb. complex).


Vitamins A and D cause dose-dependent inhibition of all three mycobacterial species studied. Vitamin A is consistently more inhibitory than vitamin D. The vitamin A precursor, β-carotene, is not inhibitory, whereas three vitamin A metabolites cause inhibition. Vitamin K has no effect. Vitamin E causes negligible inhibition in a single strain.


We show that vitamin A, its metabolites Retinyl acetate, Retinoic acid and 13-cis Retinoic acid and vitamin D directly inhibit mycobacterial growth in culture. These data are compatible with the hypothesis that complementing the immune response of multicellular organisms, vitamins A and D may have heretofore unproven, unrecognized, independent and probable synergistic, direct antimycobacterial inhibitory activity.

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