Mycobacterium tuberculosis: Vitamin D and Drug Resistance

Adult Gummies - Vitamin D

Adult Gummies – Vitamin D (Photo credit: LookAfterYourself)

Kaitlyn Geiger (11 AM Micro) found a relationship between the acquisition of antibiotic resistance in tuberculosis, and the possibility that high levels of Vitamin D in conjunction with antibiotics may offer a better patient outcome. Here is Kaitlyn’s summary:

Tuberculosis, an air-borne bacterial disease, affects millions of people worldwide every year.  It can also be contracted through the gastrointestinal tract.  To the immunocompetent, this bacterium normally does not present an issue.  However, to others it causes a persistent cough as well as other symptoms that can be deadly.  Recently, there have been studies conducted to examine the growing drug resistant community of diseases and other possible solutions; in this case: Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

After frequent discussion recently in lecture and a post to the online Microbiology blog concerning drug and antibiotic resistance, I stumbled across an article concerning tuberculosis and its recent, widespread issue related to antibiotic resistance.  “Nearly 1.5 million people are killed by the infection every year and there are concerns some cases are becoming untreatable” (Gallagher, 2012).  The World Health Organization has been working to conduct research as well as promote drug-resistance screenings in countries where tuberculosis is a problematic disease.  Their goal is to monitor growing drug resistance and take preventative measures towards this rising problem in healthcare.

A study was conducted to pair current TB fighting drugs and antibiotics with Vitamin D.  The study included 95 patients who were given the added Vitamin D and recovered 2 weeks faster than those given a placebo.  The Vitamin D is said to reduce the inflammatory effects of the infection.  Doctors say that it will by no means replace antibiotics but could be used as an “extra weapon” or more recently noted as a preventive procedure.  Although two weeks may not sound like a lot of time concerning the illness, the idea is to significantly shorten the time the disease spends in the lungs; time well spent damaging the patient and other vital organs.

The BBC website reviews the study on Vitamin D and TB however; it also explored the recent issue with diseases and drug resistance.  This current issue as it relates to TB is said to occur in “3.4% of new cases” (World Health Organization, 2011).  Of that 3.4%, there is a percentage that are resistant to nearly all TB fighting antibiotics and an even greater percentage that have reoccurrences of the disease that play a role in resistance due to overexposure of the antibiotics.  This means more expensive care and longer exposure to the disease and, in many cases, death.  The study conducted with the added Vitamin D factor did not include any patients who were drug resistant but researchers feel the Vitamin D would be even more beneficial to the resistant patients.  This research is one that parallels other up and coming studies related to growing drug resistance.  It is a problem that proves to create issues in healthcare in the near future.  The Vitamin D additive is an approach to aid in the concern presented form antibiotic resistance.  Although further research is necessary to study this new-found Vitamin D remedy, its findings prove both interesting and promising.


About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on September 26, 2012, in Guest Post, Microbes in the News. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. The principle that Kaitlyn has outlined with this summary is one called “synergism,” where the combination of medications together has an improved effect than either one given alone. Antibiotic resistance is an ongoing problem, and one that will not improve over time as we lose more and more weapons in our arsenal against infectious disease. Coming up with clever ways such as the one outlined here will help us in the fight against the so-called “superbugs.” By the way, I hate the term “superbugs,” so don’t use it.

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