A new research led by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests that children under age 5 living in sub-Saharan Africa stood 54 percent chance of not developing malaria if they had been given a single large dose of vitamin A.
The study, published in the February 3 issue of the online journal eLife, indicates that vitamin A may protect children against the mosquito-borne malaria parasite, especially if the children were inoculated during the monsoons, when malaria-infected mosquitoes are known to thrive.
Maria-Graciela Hollm-Delgado, MSc, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the study leader, stated that more than half of the world’s population is at risk of contracting malaria, and that the disease is a leading killer of children in some parts of the world, which means there is an urgent need to find better ways to combat it.
Hollm-Delgado and her colleagues studied the national survey data from Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Rwanda and Senegal on more than 6,100 children between the ages of six and 59 months for their research. The team was searching for possible links between malaria rates and several types of childhood vaccines as well as vitamin A supplementation. The study revealed that only vitamin A was proved to be protective against the malaria, particularly when administered under certain circumstances, like the monsoons, as well as when given to older children and when more time had passed since the first dosage.
The findings don’t indicate with certainty why vitamin A reduces the rate of malaria infection, but they suspect the reason is because vitamin A is known to boost immunity and improve the ability to fight off infection.