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Is vitamin D deficiency linked to mortality risk in hospitalized newborn horses?

Posted on: June 22, 2015   by  Vitamin D Council


A recent study conducted by the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State University found that vitamin D deficiency may contribute to a pro-inflammatory state and increased mortality risk in equine perinatal disease.

Vitamin D deficiency is a common occurrence in critically ill people. Numerous studies have shown a relationship between vitamin D deficiency, hypocalcemia and mortality in the human population.

Hypocalcemia, low serum calcium levels in the blood, is commonly presented in hospitalized young equines, also known as foals. Despite the well-established relationship between vitamin D status and calcium homeostasis in humans, the clinical implications of vitamin D status is unknown in the equine population.

In a recent study, researchers aimed to determine the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in hospitalized neonatal foals. They also looked for a potential relationship between vitamin D status, disease severity and mortality rate in the hospitalized foals.

Researchers observed 100 newborn hospitalized foals. Fifty three of the foals were septic, which occurs when bacteria or toxins have spread throughout the body from the bloodstream. Twenty four were sick non-septic, and the remaining seventeen foals were healthy.

Upon admission into the study, the patient’s blood parameters, including serum vitamin D and parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels, were measured. Foals were considered vitamin D deficient if their 25(OH)D3 levels were below 9.51 ng/ml.

The researchers found that 63% of the subjects were vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D levels were also lower in septic and sick non-septic patients when compared to healthy controls (p < 0.0001). Significantly lower calcium and increased phosphorus levels and PTH concentrations were observed in septic foals when compared to the sick non-septic and healthy patients (p < 0.05). Septic foals who were vitamin D deficient were 3.62 times more likely to die from their illness.

The researchers concluded,

“Low 25(OH)D3 and 1,25(OH)2D3 concentrations are associated with disease severity and mortality in hospitalized foals. Vitamin D deficiency may contribute to a pro-inflammatory state in equine perinatal diseases.”

Kamr, A., K. et al. Vitamin D Metabolites and Their Association with Calcium, Phosphorus, and PTH Concentrations, Severity of Illness, and Mortality in Hospitalized Equine Neonates. PloS one, 2015


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