Grant supports study of vitamin D intervention for TB prevention – Healio

The Medical Research Council has awarded a £3.5 million grant to researchers from Queen Mary University of London and the University of Cape Town to determine whether a weekly vitamin D supplement can prevent tuberculosis in South African children, according to a press release.

Researchers will enroll 5,400 primary schoolchildren from Cape Town, where tuberculosis (TB) and low vitamin D levels are common, in a clinical trial scheduled for 2016. Participants will receive a daily, oral vitamin D supplement for 3 years, and the researchers will assess the incidence of latent TB to determine any reductions in the risk for infection.

“If the results are positive, our study could have global importance and several groups could benefit,” Adrian Martineau, PhD, MRCP, from Queen Mary University of London’s Blizzard Institute, said in the release. “Vitamin D deficient people at risk of TB would benefit from the discovery of a cheap, safe method of reducing their TB risk. The TB control community would benefit from the discovery of a new tool for TB control, and TB researchers would benefit from new scientific insights into the effects of vitamin D.”

Previous research has demonstrated that vitamin D helps white blood cells eradicate TB bacteria, according to the release. Other studies have shown that patients with lower vitamin D levels are more likely to develop latent TB infection after exposure.

According to the release, approximately 80% of people in South Africa develop latent TB infection before adulthood. Annual worldwide TB mortality is 1.5 million, the release said, and WHO aims to eliminate TB by 2050.

“More than half the children entering high school [in our communities] are already, unknowingly, infected with the TB bacteria,” Linda-Gail Bekker, PhD, professor of medicine at the Desmond Tutu HIV Center, University of Cape Town, said in the release. “While we remain committed to early detection and treatment of TB cases, additional interventions are urgently needed to reduce transmission in these communities, and it’s clear that to have an impact, our intervention will need to be in pre-adolescents.”


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