A new study has indicated that raising vitamin D concentrations among hospital patients has the potential to greatly reduce the risk of hospital-acquired infections.
Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are a leading cause of death in the US health care arena, with an overall estimated annual incidence of 1.7 million cases and 100,000 deaths.
Patients are often vitamin D deficient since many diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory infections are linked to low vitamin D concentrations.
Pneumonia is the most likely HAI, followed by bacteremias, urinary tract infections, surgical site infections, sepsis, and others.
Vitamin D plays an important antimicrobial role. Among the antimicrobial actions are reducing local and systemic inflammatory responses as a result of modulating cytokine responses and reducing Toll-like receptor activation and stimulating the expression of potent antimicrobial peptides, such as cathelicidin and beta-defensin 2.
Cathelicidins are a family of peptides thought to provide an innate defensive barrier against a variety of potential microbial pathogens, such as gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, fungi, and mycobacteria, at multiple entry sites, including skin and mucosal linings of the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems, as well as some viruses.
One of the advantages of vitamin D in combating HAIs is that it strengthens the innate immune response, thus overcoming the antibiotic resistance of many bacteria encountered in hospitals.
In an accompanying editorial, David McCarthy, M.D. outlined what hospitals could do to overcome vitamin D deficiency among hospital patients. Among these recommendations is making high-dose vitamin D3 (5,000 and 50,000 IU) capsules available to the patients.
The study appeared recently in Dermato-Endocrinology, a peer-reviewed open-access journal published by Landis Bioscience in Austin, TX.