Vitamin D insufficiency is common in Ugandan children and is associated with severe malaria

Sarah E. Cusick, Robert O. Opoka, Troy C. Lund, Chandy C. John, Lynda E. Polgreen

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29 Scopus citations


Vitamin D plays an increasingly recognized role in the innate and adaptive immune response to infection. Based on demonstrated roles in up-regulating innate immunity, decreasing inflammation, and reducing the severity of disease in illnesses such as tuberculosis and influenza, we hypothesized that poor vitamin D status would be associated with severe malaria. We measured 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] by immunoassay in a sample of Ugandan children aged 18 months - 12 years with severe malaria (cerebral malaria or severe malarial anemia, n=40) and in healthy community children (n=20). Ninety-five percent of children with severe malaria (n=38) and 80% of control children (n=16) were vitamin D-insufficient [plasma 25(OH)D <30 ng/mL]. Mean plasma 25(OH)D levels were significantly lower in children with severe malaria than in community children (21.2 vs. 25.3 ng/mL, p=0.03). Logistic regression revealed that for every 1 ng/mL increase in plasma 25(OH)D, the odds of having severe malaria declined by 9% [OR=0.91 (95% CI: 0.84, 1.0)]. These preliminary results suggest that vitamin D insufficiency may play a role in the development of severe malaria. Further prospective studies in larger cohorts are indicated to confirm the relationship of vitamin D levels to severity of malaria infection and to investigate causality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere113185
JournalPloS one
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 3 2014

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Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Cusick et al.


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