Low serum vitamin A is prevalent in underfive children with severe malaria and is associated with increased risk of death
Introduction: Micronutrient deficiencies are prevalent in developing countries and may influence vulnerability to diseases particularly malaria and its severity. This study investigated serum vitamin A profile of under-five children with severe malaria (SM) in South-western, Nigeria and to determine its association with degree of malaria parasitaemia, types of SM and eventual outcome.
Methodology: Using HPLC, serum vitamin A concentrations of 170 under-five children with SM and 170 age- and gender-matched controls were determined. Parasite species identification and density were also determined. Association between serum vitamin A levels and the degree of parasitaemia, type of SM and patients’ outcome were examined by both bivariate and logistic regression analyses.
Results: Thirty-five (20.6%) of the children with SM compared with 3 (1.8%) of the controls had hypovitaminosis A, p <0.001, OR = 14.4, 95% Confidence Interval = 4.4 – 47.8. The mean serum vitamin A concentration was also lower in the patients (45.23µg/dL vs. 87.28µg/dL; p <0.001). There was inverse correlation between serum vitamin A levels and malaria parasite density (r = - 0.103, p = 0.027). Higher proportions of children with SM and hypovitaminosis A presented with metabolic acidosis and cerebral malaria (p <0.001 and 0.032 respectively). Children with SM and hypovitaminosis A were 9.1 times more likely to die compared to those without low serum vitamin A levels, OR = 9.1, 95% Confidence Interval = 2.2–38.1, p = 0.002.
Conclusion: Children with SM had reduced serum vitamin A and significantly contributed to increased morbidity and mortality.
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