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Low vitamin D linked to sepsis, mortality

Posted on: January 25, 2013   by  Vitamin D Council


Research reported at the Society of Critical Care Medicine meeting found that people who are vitamin D deficient have an increased risk of developing sepsis – a severe blood infection – and an increased risk of death if they develop sepsis.

Kenneth Christopher, MD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston reported that people who had low vitamin D levels prior to being admitted to the hospital were significantly more likely to develop sepsis after hospitalization compared to patients with normal vitamin D levels. Among patients who developed sepsis, the odds of dying within 30 days was greater for people with deficient or insufficient vitamin D blood levels.

Dr Christopher and colleagues analyzed data from 3,400 adult patients who received care in the ICU at two Boston hospitals from 1998 to 2011 who had vitamin D blood test up to a year prior to hospitalization. Within 12 months, 26% of patients died. The authors found that the mortality rate was higher for those with sepsis, reaching 44.6%. Vitamin D deficiency pre-admission was significantly associated with sepsis, an association which remained after correcting for confounders.

Another study presented by Bryan Nguyen, MD, of Loma Linda University in California offered support to the Boston research.

Dr Nguyen and colleagues uncovered a related link between vitamin D status and an increased mortality risk in patients with sepsis. They analyzed the link between vitamin D levels in the first 72 hours of hospitalization and 30-day mortality in patients with sepsis. The study included 91 emergency room patients who were admitted to the ICU. Eleven percent of the patients died within 30 days.

The patients who died had significantly lower vitamin D levels at admission, compared to those who survived the first 30 days (p=0.04). Interestingly, parathyroid hormone levels were significantly higher among patients who died within the first 3 days in the ICU.

The researchers are cautious to celebrate vitamin D as a cure-all for sepsis, but they support its potential ability to expedite recovery time.

Nguyen concludes that the study “does suggest that 1,25(OH)2D may be a viable therapeutic target in the design of future sepsis clinical trials while we’re trying to tease out the various mechanisms of vitamin D deficiency in these patients.”


Neale T. Low vitamin D tied to poor sepsis outcomes. Medpage Today. Jan 23, 2013.

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