Objectives: Vitamin A and E deficiency is common in cystic fibrosis (CF). These vitamins have immunomodulating properties and we determined whether decreased serum vitamin A and E levels in young infants are associated with early CF lung disease and lower airway inflammation.
Methods: A post-hoc analysis was undertaken on previous data collected prospectively in 39 newly diagnosed infants identified by a newborn CF screening programme. Assessment of CF genotype, nutrition, pancreatic status, serum retinol and alpha-tocopherol levels was performed at diagnosis. Pulmonary status was determined clinically, by Brasfield chest radiographic scores and analysis of bacterial counts and inflammatory indices in bronchial lavage (BL) fluid. These assessments were repeated 12 months later.
Results: At diagnosis, 20 out of 39 (51%) CF infants had low serum retinol (mean (SD) 0.7 (0.3) micromol/L) and 9/38 (24%) had low alpha-tocopherol (mean (SD) 13.4 (8.4) micromol/L) levels. Dietary energy intake was related to serum retinol concentrations at diagnosis (r(2) = 0.27; P = 0.001). At 1 year, serum retinol and alpha-tocopherol levels had normalized following vitamin A and E supplementation. Respiratory symptoms, radiographic scores and BL inflammatory indices systematically deteriorated during infancy, reaching significance for free neutrophil elastase activity (9 out of 29 vs 21 out of 33; P = 0.01) and IL-8 levels (79 vs 416; P = 0.046) in BL fluid. No association was seen between serum vitamin levels at diagnosis and airway inflammatory indices at either diagnosis or 12 months later.
Conclusion: We found in this CF birth cohort no evidence to implicate vitamin A or E deficiency in the development of lung disease or airway inflammation during infancy.