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Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Tuberculosis

By Stephen Luntz

Outbreaks of tuberculosis in Australia, particularly in the southern states, are a delayed response to low exposure to sunlight, the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory has proposed in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

TB notifications were 24% higher in September–December than January–August Australia-wide, but this gap is 37% in Victoria and Tasmania.

Ms Jennifer MacLachlan and Dr Benjamin Cowie told a conference of the Australian Society for Infectious Diseases: “Although ecological studies such as this cannot establish causation, these findings support an association between vitamin D deficiency and the incidence of TB in Australia. This has implications for the tailoring of sun exposure messages to Australians most at risk of both vitamin D deficiency and TB, such as those born overseas and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“Blanket recommendations regarding reducing sun exposure for all Australians, particularly in winter months, may not be optimal. We need to balance the risk of skin cancer from too much sun exposure with maintaining adequate vitamin D levels.”

Other diseases peak in early spring, which is usually attributed to higher transmission from people staying inside or infectious agents surviving longer in cold conditions. However, MacLachlan says that “studies show there is a molecular mechanism for vitamin D to affect response to the TB bacteria,” making the connection particularly likely in this case. Moreover, she believes that the greater seasonal variation in states with the lowest winter sun adds credibility to the vitamin D...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.