Dietary micronutrients such as vitamins and trace minerals are known modulators of host immune responses against common pathogens. In this respect, vitamin A and zinc have recently received increased attention. Several in vivo and in vitro studies suggest that vitamin A may be a critical player in the mucosal immune rèsponses in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts, particularly in undernourished children. The effect may be mediated primarily by stabilization of the membrane of mucosal epithelial cells, as well as enhanced leukocyte functions. The beneficial effect of vitamin A therapy in reducing measles-associated morbidity and mortality suggests its crucial role in defenses against viral pathogens. Zinc is also known affect leukocyte functions such as phagocytosis and T-lymphocyte-mediated immune responses. However, unlike vitamin A, zinc has been investigated primarily for its effects on bacterial infections. Dietary supplementation or therapeutic treatment with vitamin A and zinc may be a cheap yet effective means of preventing or treating infections in h́ighly susceptible populations. Additional studies, however, are required to better define the types of pathogens and the specific human populations that may benefit from such therapy.
- Vitamin A
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health