Background: High dose vitamin A therapy is effective in reducing morbidity and mortality associated with measles infection. Children with acute respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection have low serum vitamin A concentrations.
Methods: We performed a multicenter, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of high dose vitamin A therapy among 239 children 1 month to 6 years of age to determine whether high dose vitamin A therapy would reduce morbidity associated with RSV infection.
Results: There were no differences between the vitamin A and placebo recipients for most clinical outcomes; however, vitamin A recipients had-longer hospital stays than placebo recipients (5.0 days vs. 4.4 days, P = 0.01) after enrollment. This effect was significant for children who were older than 1 year (who also had received the highest doses of vitamin A), particularly among those at low risk for complications of RSV infection and those enrolled during the second study season. Serum retinol levels at enrollment were inversely correlated with severity of illness.
Conclusions: We found no evidence of a beneficial effect of vitamin A for the treatment of RSV infection in children in the United States. There may be groups of children for which vitamin A has an adverse effect, resulting in longer hospital stays.