Health News

Vitamins improve tuberculosis treatment

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Supplementing the diet with nutrients, including selenium and vitamins A, B complex, C, and E, improves the outcomes of patients being treated for tuberculosis, according to a new report.

“The nutritional status is a very important predictor of clinical outcomes in patients with infections,” Dr. Eduardo Villamor from Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, told Reuters Health.

Villamor and colleagues hypothesized that nutrient supplements would reduce the risk of disease complications and death in patients treated for tuberculosis. They tested their hypothesis in a study of 887 patients in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The use of the nutrients was associated with a slight reduction in the risk of tuberculosis treatment failure and with a 45-percent reduction in the odds the disease would return after successful treatment. This latter effect was stronger in the subgroup of patients who were infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Tuberculosis is a frequent complication in HIV-infected patients.

Nutrient supplementation was also tied to a reduced risk of tuberculosis complications occurring outside of the lungs. Beneficial immune system effects were noted in HIV-negative patients, but not in those infected with the virus.

Nutrient supplements had no effect on death rates or on the progression of HIV disease, the researchers note in their report, published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

“Results from a single study are usually not sufficient to provide general recommendations,” Villamor cautioned. “However, this relatively inexpensive intervention does seem promising as a potential way to improve the outcome of patients receiving anti-tuberculosis treatment.”

“We believe that the findings represent a true effect and that...nutrient supplementation could be an important (additional) therapy for patients with tuberculosis,” write Dr. Christine Stabell Benn from Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, and colleagues in a related editorial.

SOURCE: The Journal of Infectious Diseases, June 1, 2008.