There is no need to get vaccinated against tuberculosis if you maintain high enough levels of vitamin D, suggests a new study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Researchers found that, in the presence of even minimally adequate levels of vitamin D, the body’s own immune system will naturally trigger an immune response against the disease and many others without the need for drug or chemical interventions.
Mario Fabri, who currently works in the Department of Dermatology at the University of Cologne in Germany, examined the effects of vitamin D on immunity during his time at the University of California, Los Angeles. He discovered that the vitamin D hormone is crucial for T-cells, which are the first responders to immune invaders, producing a protein called interferon. Interferon has been shown to directly attack tuberculosis bacteria and prevent it from taking hold.
“Over the centuries, vitamin D has intrinsically been used to treat tuberculosis,” said Fabri, referencing the age-old practice of putting tuberculosis patients in areas of high sun exposure as part of their treatment. “Our findings suggest that increasing vitamin D levels through supplementation may improve the immune response to infections such as tuberculosis.”
Fabri’s previous studies also found that vitamin D is necessary for the immune system to produce cathelicidin, an antimicrobial peptide that, like interferons, provides humans and other mammals with protection against bacterial infections. In other words, vitamin D equips the body with the tools it needs to prevent infection without the need for drug-based antibiotics.
“At a time when drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis are emerging, understanding how to enhance natural innate and acquired immunity through vitamin D may be very helpful,” added Barry Bloom, co-author of the study and former dean of faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health.
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