There is a crucial need for impactful care strategies to combat the frequent outbreaks and high mortality associated with Ebola virus disease. 

A recent study, published in the October 2019 issue of The Journal of Nutrition, provides new information that early vitamin A treatment might help lower overall Ebola virus disease mortality. Because vitamin A has well-established immunological impacts in infectious disease states, the researchers hypothesized it could have clinical benefits among those with Ebola virus disease. The study team, led by Adam Levine (Brown University Warren Alpert Medical School) and colleagues, evaluated the impact of early vitamin A supplementation on mortality among patients with Ebola virus disease admitted to 5 International Medical Corps Ebola Treatment Units in 2 West African countries.

During the West African Ebola virus disease epidemic, International Medical Corps cared for over 470 patients with confirmed cases of the disease. Treatment guidelines included supplementation with vitamin A; however, because of the availability of resources, actual treatment provision varied based on supply. Of the 424 cases analyzed, 330 patients received early vitamin A supplementation, whereas 94 patients did not receive early supplementation. Mortality proportions among cases treated and not treated with vitamin A were 55.0% and 71.9%, respectively. However, in patients treated with multivitamins already containing vitamin A, additional vitamin A supplementation did not impact mortality.

This study is the first to demonstrate reduced mortality among patients infected with Ebola virus disease receiving vitamin A supplementation during the first 2 d of care. Supportive therapy with vitamin A supplementation should be further studied and considered for use in Ebola virus disease outbreaks, particularly in populations with a high prevalence of nutritional deficiencies.

Reference Aluisio AR, Perera SM, Yam D, Garbern S, Peters JL, Abel L, Cho DK, Kennedy SB, Massaquoi M, Sahr F, Brinkmann, S, Locks L, Liu T, Levine AC.  Vitamin A Supplementation Was Associated with Reduced Mortality in Patients with Ebola Virus Disease during the West African Outbreak. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 149, Issue 10, October 2019, Pages 1757–1765, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxz142.

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