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New study on vitamin D and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

Posted on: September 14, 2011   by  John Cannell, MD


Long time readers know that I first hypothesized that vitamin D prevents some viral infections back in 2005 in a Vitamin D Council Newsletter. One type of common viral infection vitamin D should prevent is human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). However, vitamin D should not prevent all respiratory viral infections, only those viruses with a viral coat, and that are more common in the winter. Thus vitamin D should not prevent one of the most common causes of respiratory infections, rhinoviruses, which have no viral coat and are not seasonal.

However, scientists are recognizing that human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is more common in the winter and has a viral coat, is increasingly causing lower respiratory tract infections among both adults and children, especially infants. Because it is a virus, standard modern medical treatment is limited to supportive care, including oxygen therapy. In the United States, 60% of infants are infected during their first year and nearly all children are infected by 2–3 years of age. Of those infants infected with RSV, 2–3% will develop bronchiolitis (infection of the smallest sacs in the airway that exchange oxygen for CO2), necessitating hospitalization. RSV is occasionally fatal.

Now, Dr. Mirjam Belderbos and his colleagues from the University Medical Center in Utrecht, Netherlands, present a truly remarkable study. The measured vitamin D levels at birth in 156 infants and discovered that infants with levels lower than 20 ng/ml were six times more likely to get RSV infections during their first year of life than were infants with levels above 30 ng/ml. Not enough infants had levels higher than 40 ng/ml to see how much more protection such levels may have afforded.

Belderbos ME, Houben ML, Wilbrink B, Lentjes E, Bloemen EM, Kimpen JL, Rovers M, Bont L. Cord blood vitamin D deficiency is associated with respiratory syncytial virus bronchiolitis. Pediatrics. 2011,127(6):e1513-20.

Purists will tell you that we must let these babies sicken (and some die) before we act. They say we cannot act before randomized controlled trials prove vitamin D works. However, to my knowledge, none of these purists are physicians treating patients. Such physicians have taken an oath to act in the best interest of their patients based on what science knows now, not on what future science may show.

Once again, the dosages are simple. 1,000 IU/day of vitamin D3 during the first year of life, then 2,000 IU/day during the second year of life, then 1,000 IU/day for every 25 pounds of body weight until adolescence and adulthood when 5,000 IU per day is the correct dose. The Council has two vitamin D sponsors that make excellent vitamin D at very inexpensive prices, and we appreciate it if you order your vitamin D from one of our sponsors. Our finances are precarious, and we need their support, and I know they appreciate our referrals. They are Stop-Aging-Now and Bio Tech Pharmacal.


1 Response to New study on vitamin D and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

  1. Brant Cebulla
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