Vitamin A, known for its properties to fight off infection, is highly effective in protecting children against the mosquito-borne malaria parasite, a study said.
Children under the age of 5 in sub-Saharan Africa were 54 percent less likely to develop malaria if they had been given a single large dose of vitamin A, the study showed.
“Our research found that children who received vitamin A supplementation were less likely to become infected with malaria,” said study leader Maria-Graciela Hollm-Delgado, a post-doctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Vitamin A appeared to be more protective, especially when administered during the rainy season, and showed promising results even in older children, long after their first supplementation.
For the study, researchers analysed national survey data from four sub-Saharan countries — Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Rwanda and Senegal — on more than 6,100 children between the ages of six months and 59 months.
The researchers hit upon the finding when they were looking for possible links between malaria rates and several types of childhood vaccines as well as vitamin A supplementation. Only vitamin A was found to be highly protective against malaria, said researchers.
The researchers are not certain why vitamin A would reduce the rate of malaria infection, but they suspect it is because vitamin A may help the body clear out the malaria parasite more quickly. The study has been published in the online journal eLife.
Vitamin A has been studied as a treatment for many other diseases like cancers, cataracts, and HIV but the results so far have been inconclusive.
Vitamin A is abundantly available in carrots, sweet potato, lettuce, apricot, melon among others.
(With inputs from IANS)