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Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Feb;81(2):454-60.

Effect of postpartum maternal or neonatal vitamin A supplementation on infant mortality among infants born to HIV-negative mothers in Zimbabwe.

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  • 1Department of Nutrition, University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe.



Young infants are at risk of vitamin A deficiency. Supplementation of breastfeeding mothers improves the vitamin A status of their infants, but there are no data regarding its effect on infant mortality, and data on the effect of directly supplementing infants during the first few weeks of life are conflicting.


The objective was to measure the effect on infant mortality of supplementing neonates and their HIV-negative mothers with single, large doses of vitamin A during the immediate postpartum period.


A randomized, placebo-controlled, 2-by-2 factorial design trial was conducted in 14,110 mothers and their infants; 9208 of the mothers were HIV-negative at delivery, remained such during the postpartum year, and were retained in the current analysis. The infants were randomly assigned within 96 h of delivery to 1 of 4 treatment groups: mothers and infants received vitamin A (Aa), mothers received vitamin A and infants received placebo (Ap), mothers received placebo and infants received vitamin A (Pa), and both mothers and infants received placebo (Pp). The vitamin A dose in the mothers was 400,000 IU and in the infants was 50,000 IU. The mother-infant pairs were followed to 12 mo.


Hazard ratios (95% CI) for 12 mo mortality among infants in the maternal-supplemented and infant-supplemented groups were 1.17 (0.87, 1.58) and 1.08 (0.80, 1.46), respectively. Hazard ratios (95% CI) for the Aa, Ap, and Pa groups compared with the Pp group were 1.28 (0.83, 1.98), 1.27 (0.82, 1.97), and 1.18 (0.76, 1.83), respectively. These data indicate no overall effect. Serum retinol concentrations among a subsample of women were similar to reference norms.


Postpartum maternal or neonatal vitamin A supplementation may not reduce infant mortality in infants of HIV-negative women with an apparently adequate vitamin A status.

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