September 23, 2009
A new study of HIV-positive pregnant women finds that low maternal vitamin D levels are linked with a higher risk of viral transmission and an increase in infant mortality.
In Tanzania, 884 HIV-positive pregnant women participating in a trial of vitamin supplementation were monitored to assess pregnancy outcomes and child mortality. Vitamin D levels below 32 ng/ml were considered to be low.
The HIV infection rates for babies born to mothers with low levels of vitamin D were 10.7 percent at birth, 21.7 percent at six weeks and 35.2 percent at two years. For participants with adequate levels of vitamin D, the infant infection rates were 6.5 percent at birth, 16.3 percent at six weeks and 27 percent at two years. Multivariate analyses showed low maternal vitamin D levels were linked with a 50 percent higher risk of HIV transmission at six weeks, a 200 percent higher risk during breastfeeding for babies who were not infected at six weeks, and a 46 percent higher risk overall.
In addition, "Children born to women with a low vitamin D level had a 61 percent higher risk of dying during follow-up (95 percent confidence interval, 25 percent-107 percent)," the researchers wrote.
"If found to be efficacious in randomized trials, vitamin D supplementation could prove to be an inexpensive methods of reducing the burden of HIV infection and death among children, particularly in resource-limited settings," the authors concluded.
The report, "Perinatal Outcomes, Including Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV, and Child Mortality and Their Association with Maternal Vitamin D Status in Tanzania," was published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases (2009;200:1022-1030).