Children under age 5 living in sub-Saharan Africa were 54 percent less likely to develop malaria if they had been given a single large dose of vitamin A, new research led by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests.
The researchers say their findings, published February 3 in the online journal eLife, indicate that vitamin A may protect children against the mosquito-borne malaria parasite, especially if administered under certain conditions, such as during the wet season, when malaria-infected mosquitos are most prevalent.
“More than half of the world’s population is at risk of contracting malaria, and the disease is a leading killer of children in some parts of the world, so we urgently need to find better ways to combat it,” says study leader Dr. Maria-Graciela Hollm-Delgado, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Our research found that children who received vitamin A supplementation were less likely to become infected with malaria. 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.”