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Why vitamin A may fight infections.

Why vitamin A may fight infections

Several recent studies have shown that asymptomatic vitaminA deficiency appears to make people--especially children--prone to infection (SN:5/23/87, p.325). Now animal research at the University of Wisconsin in Madison suggests why: The vitamin appears essential to the proper functioning of T cells, one of three major cell types involved in a healthy immune system.

Susan Smith and Colleen Hayes fed pregnant mice--beginning in the second week of gestation--a diet balanced except for its absence of vitamin A. When the offspring were 6 weeks old, as soon as their immune systems were mature, the researchers measured vitamin A in the blood at levels that were half those in mice on a vitamin-A-sufficient diet. Though the vitamin-deficient mice appeared normal, Smith says, when given a "delayed hypersensitivity test'--to measure their ability to generate a slow, T-cell-mediated reaction to a foreign substance--their response was only 75 percent of normal. Smith and Hayes also found that levels of antibodies whose production was dependent on the involvement of T cells were severely depressed in these mice--at only about 30 percent of normal. Over the next two weeks, their immune function continued to deteriorate. Subsequent vitamin supplementation, however, reversed the condition. A report of these findings will appear in the Aug. 15 PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 18, 1987
Words:222
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