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Vitamin A levels and severity of measles.

American journal of diseases of children / AMA; VOL: 146 (2); p. 182-6

Frieden TR; Sowell AL; Henning KJ; Huff DL; Gunn RA

Recent studies show that vitamin A levels decrease during measles and that vitamin A therapy can improve measles outcome in children in the developing world. Vitamin A levels of children with measles have not been studied in developed countries. We therefore measured vitamin A levels in 89 children with measles younger than 2 years and in a reference group in New York City, NY. Vitamin A levels in children with measles ranged from 0.42 to 3.0 mumol/L; 20 (22%) were low. Children with low levels were more likely to have fever at a temperature of 40 degrees C or higher (68% vs 44%), to have fever for 7 days or more (54% vs 23%), and to be hospitalized (55% vs 30%). Children with low vitamin A levels had lower measles-specific antibody levels. No child in the reference group had a low vitamin A level. Our data show that many children younger than 2 years in New York City have low vitamin A levels when ill with measles, and that such children seem to have lower measles-specific antibody levels and increased morbidity. Clinicians may wish to consider vitamin A therapy for children younger than 2 years with severe measles. Additional studies of vitamin A in measles and other infectious diseases, and in vaccine efficacy trials, should be done.

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