A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of vitamin A in Mozambican children hospitalized with nonmeasles acute lower respiratory tract infections


correspondence Professor Paulo Ferrinho, Centro de Malária e Outras Doenças Tropicais, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, 96 Rua da Junqueira, 1300 Lisboa, Portugal. E-mail: nop05938@mail.telepac.pt


Summaryobjective The objective of this study was to test the potential of routine vitamin A supplementation at admission to speed up recovery during hospitalization for acute lower respiratory tract infections (ALRI) and to decrease the levels of morbidity at 6 weeks after discharge. The study was conducted in the Central Hospital of Maputo (CHM), Mozambique, from 1995 to 1997.

methods Children aged 6–72 months with ALRI admitted to the paediatric wards of the CHM were assigned to a supplementation group (= 71, receiving 200000 IU of vitamin A) or a control group (= 93, receiving a placebo).

results The prevalence of vitamin A deficiency was very high and similar between the two groups. The median number of inpatient days for the supplementation group was 3, for the placebo group 4 days. On day 5 the rate of clinical discharge was 88.4% (= 61/69) in the experimental intervention group and 73.9% (= 65/88) in the placebo group (= 0.023).

conclusion We found a statistically significant reduction in duration of admission among vitamin A-supplemented children with ALRI. This effect is in line with what is known about the role of vitamin A in human defence and immune mechanisms and with the serological evidence of the extent of vitamin A deficiency among the children in this trial.