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J Infect Dis. 2006 Mar 15;193(6):860-71. Epub 2006 Feb 8.

Effects of a single large dose of vitamin A, given during the postpartum period to HIV-positive women and their infants, on child HIV infection, HIV-free survival, and mortality.

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Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Infect Dis. 2008 May 15;197(10):1485.



Low maternal serum retinol level is a risk factor for mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Multiple-large-dose vitamin A supplementation of HIV-positive children reduces mortality. The World Health Organization recommends single-large-dose vitamin A supplementation for postpartum women in areas of prevalent vitamin A deficiency; neonatal dosing is under consideration. We investigated the effect that single-large-dose maternal/neonatal vitamin A supplementation has on MTCT, HIV-free survival, and mortality in HIV-exposed infants.


A total of 14,110 mother-infant pairs were enrolled < or =96 h after delivery, and both mother and infant, mother only, infant only, or neither received vitamin A supplementation in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial with a 2 x 2 factorial design. All but 4 mothers initiated breast-feeding. A total of 4495 infants born to HIV-positive women were included in the present analysis.


Neither maternal nor neonatal vitamin A supplementation significantly affected postnatal MTCT or overall mortality between baseline and 24 months. However, the timing of infant HIV infection modified the effect that supplementation had on mortality. Vitamin A supplementation had no effect in infants who were polymerase chain reaction (PCR) positive [corrected] for HIV at baseline. In infants who were PCR negative at baseline and PCR positive at 6 weeks, neonatal supplementation reduced mortality by 28% (P=.01), but maternal supplementation had no effect. In infants who were PCR negative at 6 weeks, all 3 vitamin A regimens were associated with ~2-fold higher mortality (P< or =.05).


Targeted vitamin A supplementation of HIV-positive children prolongs their survival. However, postpartum maternal and neonatal vitamin A supplementation may hasten progression to death in breast-fed children who are PCR negative at 6 weeks. These findings raise concern about universal maternal or neonatal vitamin A supplementation in HIV-endemic areas.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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