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Infection panacea – vitamin D increases Cathelicidins – March 2014

Vitamin D: a new anti-infective agent?

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences Article first published online: 4 MAR 2014, DOI: 10.1111/nyas.12321
Elisabetta Borella1,2, Gideon Nesher 2,3, Eitan Israeli 2, Yehuda Shoenfeld 2,*
1 Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, University of Padua, Padua, Italy
2 Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases, Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, Tel Aviv, Israel
3 Department of Internal Medicine, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel
*Address for correspondence: Yehuda Shoenfeld, Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer 52621, Tel Aviv, Israel. shoenfel at post.tau.ac.il

Before the antibiotic era, treatment of tuberculosis patients was restricted to sun exposure in sanatoria. Years later, it was found that 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 stimulates production of cathelicidins, a family of polypeptides found in lysosomes of macrophages and polymorphonuclear leukocytes.

Cathelicidins serve a critical role in innate immune defense, which plays an important role in the suppression of Mycobacterium infections and other pathogens.

It is believed that the increased incidence of the common cold and pneumonia during winter is related, in part, to decreased exposure to sunlight, resulting in a decreased synthesis of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3.

An association has been established between low levels of vitamin D and

  • upper respiratory and enteric infections,
  • pneumonia,
  • otitis media,
  • Clostridium infections,
  • vaginosis,
  • urinary tract infections,
  • sepsis,
  • influenza,
  • dengue,
  • hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and
  • HIV infections.

Accumulating evidence suggests that 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 exerts protective effects during infections by upregulating the expression of cathelicidin and β-defensin 2 in phagocytes and epithelial cells. Vitamin D may be acting as a panaceal antibiotic agent and thus may be useful as an adjuvant therapy in diverse infections.

See also VitaminDWiki