Background: Vitamin D deficiency (VDD) is highly prevalent among children worldwide. The effects of VDD include alterations of the immune response and increased risk of infection but little evidence exists in school-age children. We investigated the association of vitamin D status with morbidity in a prospective study of school-age children from Bogotá, Colombia.
Methods: We measured plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) concentrations in a random sample of 475 children (mean ± standard deviation age: 8.9 ± 1.6 years) and followed them for an academic year. Caregivers were asked to record daily information on the incidence of morbidity episodes using pictorial diaries. Baseline vitamin D status was classified according to 25(OH)D concentrations as deficient (<50 nmol/L), insufficient (≥50 and <75 nmol/L) or sufficient (≥75 nmol/L). We used Poisson regression to estimate incidence rate ratios and 95% confidence intervals for days with diarrhea, vomiting, diarrhea with vomiting, cough with fever and earache or discharge with fever, comparing vitamin D-deficient with vitamin D-sufficient children. Estimates were adjusted for child's age, sex and household socioeconomic status.
Results: The prevalence of VDD was 10%; an additional 47% of children were vitamin D-insufficient. VDD was associated with increased rates of diarrhea with vomiting (adjusted incidence rate ratio: 2.05; 95% confidence interval: 1.19, 3.53) and earache/discharge with fever (adjusted incidence rate ratio: 2.36; 95% confidence interval: 1.26, 4.44). VDD was not significantly related to cough with fever.
Conclusions: These results suggest that VDD is related to increased incidence of gastrointestinal and ear infections in school-age children. The effect of correcting VDD on reducing risk of these infections needs to be tested in supplementation trials.