Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most important pathogen causing severe lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) in infants. Epidemiologic and basic studies suggest that vitamin D may protect against RSV LRTI.
To determine the association between plasma vitamin D concentrations at birth and the subsequent risk of RSV LRTI.
A prospective birth cohort study was performed in healthy term neonates. Concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OHD) in cord blood plasma were related to RSV LRTI in the first year of life, defined as parent-reported LRTI symptoms in a daily log and simultaneous presence of RSV RNA in a nose-throat specimen.
The study population included 156 neonates. Eighteen (12%) developed RSV LRTI. The mean plasma 25-OHD concentration was 82 nmol/L. Overall, 27% of neonates had 25-OHD concentrations <50 nmol/L, 27% had 50-74 nmol/L and only 46% had 25-OHD 75 nmol/L. Cord blood 25-OHD concentrations were strongly associated with maternal vitamin D3 supplementation during pregnancy. Concentrations of 25-OHD were lower in neonates who subsequently developed RSV LRTI compared with those who did not (65 nmol/L versus 84 nmol/L, P = .009). Neonates born with 25-OHD concentrations <50 nmol/L had a sixfold (95% confidence interval: 1.6-24.9; P = .01) increased risk of RSV LRTI in the first year of life compared with those with 25-OHD concentrations ≥75 nmol/L.
Vitamin D deficiency in healthy neonates is associated with increased risk of RSV LRTI in the first year of life. Intensified routine vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy may be a useful strategy to prevent RSV LRTI during infancy.