Vitamin A may be the key to saving infants with a potentially fatal bowel disease, according to new research from Johns Hopkins. The study adds to growing evidence of the vitamin’s anti-inflammatory powers.
Between 5 and 10 percent of premature babies develop necrotizing enterocolitis, a severe form of bowel disease that’s a kind of gangrene of the intestine. Tissue in the babies’ intestines becomes inflamed and dies, causing lifelong digestive, lung and other impairments if the infants survive. Many don’t. It kills one in four infants who contract the disease.
The researchers focused on newborn mice with the rodent version of necrotizing enterocolitis. They fed mice with the disease 50 micrograms of vitamin A daily for four days, an amount considered a fairly low dose, according to a university release about the research. When they looked at the intestines of the diseased mice fed vitamin A, they looked more like healthy intestines than diseased ones.
"It's amazing and maybe a little humbling to think that a naturally occurring vitamin might put out the fire of such a devastating disease," study author David Hackam, M.D., Ph.D., surgeon-in-chief at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center and professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said in the release. "It's a nasty disease for which there isn't reliable treatment, and certainly no specific cure."
The research was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. Prebiotics may prove to be another relatively simple therapy for infants with necrotizing enterocolitis, according to recent research published in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.