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Lancet. 1999 Jul 17;354(9174):203-9.

Effect of vitamin A supplementation on morbidity due to Plasmodium falciparum in young children in Papua New Guinea: a randomised trial.

Author information

1
Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA. ashankar@jhsph.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Many individuals at risk of malaria also have micronutrient deficiencies that may hamper protective immunity. Vitamin A is central to normal immune function, and supplementation has been shown to lower the morbidity of some infectious diseases. We investigated the effect of vitamin A supplementation on malaria morbidity.

METHODS:

This randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial of vitamin A supplementation took place in a P. falciparum endemic area of Papua New Guinea. Of 520 potentially eligible children aged 6-60 months, 480 were randomly assigned high-dose vitamin A (n=239) or placebo (n=241), every 3 months for 13 months. Malaria morbidity was assessed through weekly community-based case detection and surveillance of patients who self-reported to the health centre. Cross-sectional surveys were also done at the beginning, middle, and end of the study to assess malariometric indicators. Analyses were by intention to treat.

FINDINGS:

The number of P. falciparum febrile episodes (temperature > or = 37.5 degrees C with a parasite count of at least 8000/microL) was 30% lower in the vitamin A group than in the placebo group (178 vs 249 episodes; relative risk 0.70 [95% CI 0.57-0.87], p=0.0013). At the end of the study P. falciparum geometric mean density was lower in the vitamin A than the placebo group (1300 [907-1863] vs 2039 [1408-2951]) as was the proportion with spleen enlargement (125/196 [64%] vs 148/207 [71%]); neither difference was significant (p=0.093 and p=0.075). Children aged 12-36 months benefited most, having 35% fewer febrile episodes (89 vs 141; relative risk 0.65 [14-50], p=0.0023), 26% fewer enlarged spleens (46/79 [58%] vs 67/90 [74%], p=0.0045), and a 68% lower parasite density (1160 [95% CI 665-2022] vs 3569 [2080-6124], p=0.0054). Vitamin A had no consistent effect on cross-sectional indices of proportion infected or with anaemia.

INTERPRETATION:

Vitamin A supplementation may be an effective low-cost strategy to lower morbidity due to P. falciparum in young children. The findings suggest that clinical episodes, spleen enlargement, and parasite density are influenced by different immunological mechanisms from infection and anaemia.

PIP:

A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial was conducted to assess the efficacy of vitamin A supplementation on morbidity due to Plasmodium falciparum among 520 children aged 6-60 months in a malaria-endemic area of Papua New Guinea. Malaria morbidity was assessed through weekly community-based case detection and surveillance of patients who self-reported to the health center. Cross-sectional surveys were also conducted at the beginning, middle, and end of the study to assess malariometric indicators. Laboratory tests were also analyzed for species-specific density. Findings showed that the number of episodes of falciparum malaria among young children in Papua New Guinea was 30% lower in those who received vitamin A than in the placebo recipients. The children, mostly aged 12-36 months, had fewer febrile episodes, fewer enlarged spleens and lower parasite density. No significant differences were observed for hemoglobin concentration or prevalence of anemia for any age group. The findings suggest that clinical episodes, spleen enlargement, and parasite density were influenced by immunological mechanisms that were different from infection and anemia. It also suggests that vitamin A is effective, inexpensive, and a programmatically practical tool in controlling P. falciparum malaria.

PMID:
10421302
DOI:
10.1016/S0140-6736(98)08293-2
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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