Vitamin A intake reduces death rates in infants born of Vit A deficient mothers, finds a study.
Findings of the study indicate that vitamin A supplementation in neonates reduced infant mortality in the settings where the prevalence of maternal vitamin A deficiency was of public health importance.
According to WHO Vitamin A deficiency is a public health problem in many parts of the world. Inadequate intakes of vitamin A may lead to vitamin A deficiency which can cause visual impairment in the form of night blindness and may increase the risk of illness and death from childhood infections, including measles and those causing diarrhoea.
According to the review, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, neonatal vitamin A supplementation (NVAS) reduced infant mortality in South Asia where the prevalence of early infant mortality is high and maternal vitamin A deficiency is moderate to severe. Whereas NVAS had no survival benefit among infants in Africa, in contexts where the prevalence of maternal vitamin A deficiency is lower, early infant mortality is low.
Biannual vitamin A supplementation is known to reduce mortality in preschool children 6 months and older in vitamin A deficient populations. But nothing is known about its impact on most young infant deaths. Rajiv Bahl, Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health, World Health Organization, Geneva 27, Switzerland, and colleagues conducted this meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials to assess the impact of NVAS on under 6-month mortality in low/middle-income countries.
The researchers identified 11 randomized placebo-controlled NVAS trials (n=163,567 children) randomly assigned to receive NVAS (25,000 IU/50,000 IU or 48,000 IU) given within the first 2-3 days of life compared with placebo. Infant mortality from supplementation through 6 and 12 months of age was evaluated. Effects on modified study-level characteristics were examined.
Key findings of the study include:
- Overall there was no effect of NVAS on infant survival through 6 or 12 months of age but results varied by study population characteristics.
- NVAS significantly reduced 6-month mortality among the trials conducted in Southern Asia in contexts with moderate or severe vitamin A deficiency (defined as 10% or higher proportion of women with serum retinol <0.7 µmol/L or 5% or more women with night blindness), early infant mortality was 30 or more per 1000 live birth, 75% or more of infant mortality occurred in the first 6 months of life, or where >32% of mothers had no schooling.
- NVAS did not reduce mortality in the first 6 months of life in trials conducted in Africa, in contexts characterized by a low prevalence of vitamin A deficiency, lower rates of infant mortality and where maternal education was more prevalent.