A single, oral dose of vitamin A, given to infants shortly after birth in the developing world can reduce their risk of death by 15 percent, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study is published in the July 2008 edition of the journal Pediatrics.
"It has long been known that vitamin A supplementation can reduce mortality in children over 6 months of age. Our study showed that vitamin A given at birth can also improve infant survival within the first 6 months of life," said Rolf D.W. Klemm, DrPH, MPH, the study's lead author and a researcher with the Bloomberg School's Center for Human Nutrition.
The study enrolled 15,937 newborns from rural communities in northwest Bangladesh, where over 90 percent of babies are born at home. Half were randomly selected to receive a 50,000 IU dose of vitamin A, while the other half received a placebo. A 200,000 IU dose of vitamin A is recommended semi-annually for older children. The vitamin A was given orally to the infants within a few days of birth, usually by 7 hours after delivery. The mortality rate for the vitamin A group was 38.5 deaths per 1,000 births compared to 45.1 deaths per 1,000 births for the non-vitamin A group.
Although vitamin A reduced infant deaths from all causes, lives were likely saved by reducing the severity of potentially fatal infections which are responsible for most deaths in early infancy in South Asia.
"This study supports the findings of previous vitamin A studies in Southern Asia where the evidence is now strong that vitamin A given to newborns can dramatically reduce mortality," said study co-author Keith West, DrPH, MPH, RD, the George G. Graham Professor in Infant and Child Nutrition at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. "More studies are urgently needed to determine if newborn vitamin A supplementation would reduce mortality among infants in other regions, especially Afric
|Contact: Tim Parsons|
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health