Purpose: Respiratory tract infections (RTIs) are a major cause of illness worldwide and the most common cause of hospitalization for pneumonia and bronchiolitis. These two diseases are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality among children under 5 years of age. Vitamin D is believed to have immunomodulatory effects on the innate and adaptive immune systems by modulating the expression of antimicrobial peptides, like cathelicidin, in response to both viral and bacterial stimuli. The aim of this review is to summarize the more recently published data with regard to potential associations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] with infectious respiratory tract diseases of childhood and the possible health benefits from vitamin D supplementation.
Methods: The literature search was conducted by using the PubMed, Scopus, and Google Scholar databases, with the following keywords: vitamin D, respiratory tract infection, tuberculosis, influenza, infancy, and childhood.
Results: Several studies have identified links between inadequate 25(OH)D concentrations and the development of upper or lower respiratory tract infections in infants and young children. Some of them also suggest that intervention with vitamin D supplements could decrease both child morbidity and mortality from such causes.
Conclusions: Most studies agree in that decreased vitamin D concentrations are prevalent among most infants and children with RTIs. Also, normal to high-serum 25(OH)D appears to have some beneficial influence on the incidence and severity of some, but not all, types of these infections. However, studies with vitamin D supplementation revealed conflicting results as to whether supplementation may be of benefit, and at what doses.
Keywords: Childhood; Infections; Respiratory system; Vitamin D.