Vitamin D: a new anti-infective agent?

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2014 May;1317:76-83. doi: 10.1111/nyas.12321. Epub 2014 Mar 4.


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.

Keywords: HIV; antibiotic; autoimmunity; infection; tuberculosis; vitamin D.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Dengue / drug therapy
  • Dengue / immunology
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • Hepatitis / drug therapy
  • Hepatitis / immunology
  • Hepatitis / virology
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / pharmacology
  • Sepsis / drug therapy
  • Sepsis / immunology
  • Tuberculosis / drug therapy
  • Tuberculosis / immunology
  • Vitamin D / pharmacology*


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Immunologic Factors
  • Vitamin D