Tags: Body & Mind, health, Science
Vitamin D plays a critical role in fighting infection, and now scientists say that it may be a powerful weapon against tuberculosis.
In a study reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers studied how T-cells—a kind of white blood cell—are especially effective against the bacteria that cause tuberculosis.
It’s known that people with low vitamin D levels are more susceptible to infection. It’s also known that people with weakened immunity—like those with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS—are more susceptible to tuberculosis.
Robert Modlin, chief of dermatology at the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine and study co-author, says the researchers examined that connection.
“And through that, we discovered that one particular type of T-cell, the one that secreted a protein called interferon-gamma, was able to activate white blood cells that were infected with the tuberculosis bacteria to then kill the bacteria.”
But Modlin says it required vitamin D. “People that had low levels of vitamin D in their blood were unable to mount this mechanism and kill the bacteria.”
In lab experiments, scientists supplemented blood samples that were deficient in vitamin D. The supplementation activated the T-cells to destroy the TB bacteria.
Modlin says the findings could lead to new therapies using supplements to prevent TB or help in its treatment. “I think it could change how we think about vitamin D supplementation.”