Can something as simple as vitamin D help reduce healthcare-associated infections? A review by Youssef et al.1 published this past spring in the journal Dermato Endocrinology makes a strong case that it could.
Vitamin D can play an antimicrobial role, as it can reduce local and systemic inflammatory responses, and strengthen the body’s immune response. Those mechanisms may be especially important in dealing with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. At the least, vitamin D may be able to reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions, and boost therapeutic response in combination with appropriate antibiotics.
Citing vitamin D’s low cost, especially when compared to the added cost of HAIs, the authors suggest checking vitamin D status when patients are admitted to a hospital and addressing insufficiencies. Many patients have lower than average levels of vitamin D on admission.
According to the studies referenced in the article, vitamin D deficiency is associated with worse outcomes and higher costs for patients with bacteremia, bacterial sepsis, pneumonia, Clostridium difficile, Catheter-associated urinary tract infections, surgical site infections, and virulent organisms like MRSA. Proving causality is obviously a higher benchmark, but this review indicates the value of more research to determine vitamin D’s antimicrobial properties, and whether vitamin D should be a common tool in the multifaceted approach to addressing HAIs.
In the meantime, it looks like Mom was right again: Drink your milk, get some sunshine, and pay attention to your vitamin D levels.
1Youssef D, Ranasinghe T, Grant W, Peiris A. Vitamin D’s potential to reduce the risk of hospital-acquired infections. Dermato-Endocrinology 2012; 4:167 – 175; http://dx.doi.org10.4161/derm.20789.