A large dose of vitamin A may protect children from malaria, reveals a new study.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease, which is transmitted to humans when an infected female Anopheles mosquito bites a person. While malaria medicines are available in the market, the infection may still cause death in extreme cases.
Around 207 million people are infected with malaria every year and more than half a million people die of the infection. However, about 90 percent of the total malaria-related deaths occur in Africa.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health conducted a study, which included an analysis of national survey data collected from four sub-Saharan countries that included Senegal, Burkina Faso, Rwanda and Mozambique. The survey included more than 6,000 children between the age of 6 and 59 months.
The researchers looked at possible connections between different types of childhood vaccines including vitamin A and malaria rates. The study found that only vitamin A gave protection against malaria.
Maria-Graciela Hollm-Delgado, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who is also the study lead, revealed that children in the sub-Saharan nations are 54 percent less likely to get malaria infection if they receive a large dose of vitamin A.
"Now we need to test vitamin A in a randomized controlled clinical trial to better understand whether this could really be an effective way to prevent this disease," says Hollm-Delgado.
The study also found that vitamin A provided more protection in certain circumstances. The vitamin was found to be more effective when given in the rainy season and to older children. The researchers are not sure how vitamin A reduces the rate of malaria. However, the researchers believe that as vitamin A gives a boost to a person's immunity it helps in clearing malaria parasites quickly and fights the infection.
Hollm-Delgado revealed that just 62 percent children who were involved in the survey received the vitamin supplement. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that children in sub-Saharan regions should get a large vitamin A dose but the guidelines are not specific in comparison to other vaccinations for children, which means that many children do not receive vitamin A supplement.
The study has been published in the journal eLife.