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Vitamin D and tuberculosis

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There is little evidence to suggest that vitamin D has any therapeutic effect in treating tuberculosis

Before antimycobacterial medicines were introduced (around 1950), the best support for patients with tuberculosis (TB) appeared to be sunshine. For TB patients who needed bed rest, sun-facing balconies in sanatoria were considered to be more therapeutic than the usual dark hospital wards. In 1904, William Osler noted that rabbits inoculated with tubercle bacilli succumbed rapidly if kept in the dark, but not in the open air. He advised patients treated at home to have as many hours as possible in the sunshine. Cod liver oil was also used — a large controlled trial at the Brompton Hospital, London in 1848 showed clear benefit of cod liver oil in treating pulmonary consumption.1

However, sunlight is our major source of vitamin D and cod liver oil is rich in vitamin D3 (5 g oil provides 10 μg, the recommended daily intake for most adults). So can vitamin D help prevent or treat TB?

In the past 15 years, there has been a surge of research interest in whether vitamin D can be a protective influence in a range of diseases — notably, type 1 diabetes,…