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The effect of antenatal vitamin A and beta-carotene supplementation on gut integrity of infants of HIV-infected South African women.

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2001 Apr;32(4):464-70 (ISSN: 0277-2116)

Filteau SM; Rollins NC; Coutsoudis A; Sullivan KR; Willumsen JF; Tomkins AM Centre for International Child Health, Institute of Child Health, London, United Kingdom. sfilteau@ich.ucl.ac.uk.

BACKGROUND: Vitamin A is important for protection against diarrhea, and supplements may benefit gut function of infants of HIV-infected mothers. METHODS: We studied 238 infants of HIV-infected South African women participating in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of vitamin A during pregnancy (1.5 mg retinyl palmitate and 30 mg beta-carotene daily) plus 60 mg retinyl palmitate at delivery. The placebo group received identical placebo capsules at the same times. When infants were 1, 6, and 14 weeks of age, lactulose/mannitol dual sugar intestinal permeability tests were performed. RESULTS: Maternal vitamin A supplementation did not significantly affect infant gut permeability in the group as a whole at any time. By multiple regression analysis, HIV infection of the infant by 14 weeks was significantly associated with increased gut permeability at both 6 and 14 weeks. After controlling for birth weight, gestational age, current weight, feeding mode and recent morbidity, there was a trend toward an interaction between vitamin A supplementation and HIV infection (P = 0.086) at 14 weeks. Vitamin A made no difference to gut permeability of uninfected infants (lactulose/mannitol ratio for vitamin A group: 0.11, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.08, 0.15, n = 73 and for placebo group: 0.09, 95% CI 0.06, 0.12, n = 76), but largely prevented the increase in the ratio of HIV-infected infants (vitamin A group: 0.17, 95% CI 0.13, 0.23, n = 23; placebo group: 0.50, 95% CI 0.37, 0.68, n = 20). The effects on the lactulose/mannitol ratio were related to changes in lactulose, not mannitol, excretion. Vitamin A supplementation was associated with significantly lower lactulose excretion at 1 and 14 weeks, suggesting the major effect of vitamin A was on maintaining the integrity of gut tight junctions. CONCLUSIONS: Vitamin A supplementation of HIV-infected pregnant women may prevent the deterioration in gut integrity in the subgroup of their infants who themselves become infected. Improving vitamin A status of HIV-infected infants may decrease their gastrointestinal morbidity.

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