In the World Health Organization (WHO)-approved research, the children in India, Ghana and Tanzania are given 50 international units (IU) of vitamin A in the first three days of life, or a soy oil placebo. The health of the children will be analysed after six months and comparisons made between intervention and control groups. Some will also be checked at 12 months.
“These studies will shed more light on the potential biological mechanisms through which this intervention may work,“ wrote the researchers.
“However, policy formulation will largely be based on the results of efficacy of the intervention from the ongoing randomized controlled trials. These results will be combined with results of previous studies in a new meta-analysis for an overall effect.“
The study is expected to complete in September this year at which point the data will be combined with existing data that thrown up ambiguous results in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Guinea-Bissau and Zimbabwe.
Larger scale studies
The WHO recommends vitamin A supplementation for 6-59 month old children due to existing evidence.
“There has been considerable interest in determining the benefits of neonatal vitamin A supplementation, but the results of existing trials are conflicting. A technical consultation convened by WHO pointed to the need for larger scale studies in Asia and Africa to inform global policy on the use of neonatal vitamin A supplementation,“ they wrote.
The Indian trial involves 40,200 children while there are 32,000 in each of the trials in Tanzania and Ghana.
It is estimated that about 9m under-5s die every year, mostly in developing world countries. About two thirds die in the first year of life. About a third of these child deaths have been attributed to child and maternal under-nutrition.
Vitamin charity Vitamin Angels works to boost vitamin A supplementation and is developing programmes in latin American, Asian and African countries. It is working in India with DSM Sight and Life to address deficiencies there.
‘Efficacy of early neonatal vitamin A supplementation in reducing mortality during infancy in Ghana, India and Tanzania: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial’
Authors: Bahl et al