Micronutrient malnutrition, infection, and immunity: an overview

Nutr Rev. 2002 May;60(5 Pt 2):S40-5. doi: 10.1301/00296640260130722.


Micronutrient deficiencies and infectious diseases often coexist and exhibit complex interactions leading to the vicious cycle of malnutrition and infections among underprivileged populations of the developing countries, particularly in preschool children. Several micronutrients such as vitamin A, beta-carotene, folic acid, vitamin B12 vitamin C, riboflavin, iron, zinc, and selenium, have immunomodulating functions and thus influence the susceptibility of a host to infectious diseases and the course and outcome of such diseases. Certain of these micronutrients also possess antioxidant functions that not only regulate immune homeostasis of the host, but also alter the genome of the microbes, particularly in viruses, resulting in grave consequences like resurgence of old infectious diseases or the emergence of new infections. These micronutrient infection and immune function interactions and their clinical and public health relevance in developing countries are briefly reviewed in this article.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Carotenoids / physiology
  • Humans
  • Infections / complications*
  • Infections / etiology
  • Infections / immunology
  • Iron Deficiencies
  • Micronutrients / deficiency*
  • Micronutrients / immunology
  • Nutrition Disorders / complications*
  • Nutrition Disorders / immunology
  • Nutrition Disorders / microbiology
  • Vitamin A / physiology
  • Vitamin A Deficiency / complications*
  • Vitamin A Deficiency / immunology
  • Vitamin A Deficiency / microbiology
  • Zinc / deficiency


  • Antioxidants
  • Micronutrients
  • Vitamin A
  • Carotenoids
  • Zinc