A new study is underway at Saint Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, examining if vitamin D can prevent or delay onset of multiple sclerosis in people showing early signs of the disease.
When people show early signs of multiple sclerosis, doctors call this clinically isolated syndrome. If you have clinically isolated syndrome, the chances of developing multiple sclerosis within a few years’ time are about 50%.
When a patient is diagnosed with clinically isolated syndrome, doctors try to treat their patients to delay onset of multiple sclerosis, or prevent from “relapsing” into multiple sclerosis. There have been some drugs developed that delay onset and thus delay the progression of multiple sclerosis, but researchers are still trying to find more effective measures.
Vitamin D has shown promise for this early stage type multiple sclerosis. In one study in North America, vitamin D levels predicted whether patients with clinically isolated syndrome or relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis relapsed into disease state; the lower the level, the more likely you were to relapse. And in a randomized controlled trial out of Iran earlier this year, vitamin D supplementation of 50,000 IU/week delayed onset in all 13 patients taking vitamin D, while 5 of the 11 placebo-taking patients developed multiple sclerosis over the course of the one year study.
This raises the question, can vitamin D delay onset of early-stage multiple sclerosis? Researchers in Ireland, led by Drs Karen O’Connell and Michael Hutchinson, are set to further investigate this question in a similar randomized controlled trial to the one out of Iran.
They will enroll 45 patients with clinically isolated syndrome and 39 healthy control patients. Participants will be randomized to either take 5,000 IU of vitamin D/day, 10,000 IU of vitamin D/day or a placebo pill/day. They will take these doses for 24 weeks.
At the start and end of the trial, the researchers will be measuring if vitamin D influences many things, including:
- The number of certain immune cells
- Brain lesions
- Whether patients relapse into multiple sclerosis or not
If all goes well, results from the study should be available sometime in 2014.
O’Connell K et al. Dose-related effects of vitamin D on immune responses in patients with clinically isolated syndrome and healthy control participants: study protocol for an exploratory randomized double- blind placebo-controlled trial. BioMed Central, 2013.