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Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2010 Aug;235(8):921-7. doi: 10.1258/ebm.2010.010061.

Vitamin D and host resistance to infection? Putting the cart in front of the horse.

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  • 1Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Science, Center for Molecular Immunology and Infectious Disease, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, 16802, USA.


Vitamin D is being touted as an anti-infective agent and it has even been suggested that vitamin D supplementation could be effective against the H1N1 influenza virus. The claims are largely based on the ability of vitamin D to induce antibacterial peptides and evidence that the immune system produces active vitamin D (1,25(OH)(2)D(3)) in situ. While there are many examples of immune production of 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) in vitro, there is little in vivo evidence. In addition, it is not clear what role immune production of 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) has on the course of disease. Vitamin D and 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) inhibit T helper type 1 (Th1)/Th17-mediated immune responses and autoimmune diseases by acting on the innate and acquired immune system to inhibit the function of Th1 and Th17 cells. Th1 and Th17 cells are important in host resistance to many infections including tuberculosis (TB) caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Paradoxically the innate immune system is induced to produce antibacterial peptides that are effective against TB in vitro. Data from several models of infection have so far not supported a role for vitamin D in affecting the course of disease. There is also very little evidence that vitamin D affects the course of human TB infection. Experiments have not been done in cells, mice or humans to evaluate the effect of vitamin D on influenza virus. At this time it would be premature to claim that vitamin D has an effect on TB, influenza or any other infection.

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