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Vitamin D and respiratory infection in adults

  • Ilkka Laaksi (a1)

Vitamin D insufficiency is a global issue that has significant implications for health. The classical role of vitamin D in bone mineralisation is well known; vitamin D deficiency leads to rickets, osteomalacia or osteoporosis. The role of vitamin D in an immune system is less known. Vitamin D is not an actual vitamin but a secosteroid hormone produced in the skin from 7-dehydrocholesterol after exposure to sunlight UVB radiation. Nutrition and supplements are main sources of vitamin D in wintertime in northern countries as sunlight exposure is inadequate for the production. For activation vitamin D needs to be hydroxylated in liver to form 25-hydroxyvitamin D and in kidney to 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, the most active hormone in Ca absorption in the gut. For determination of vitamin D status serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level, the major circulating form of the hormone is to be measured. Vitamin D regulates gene expression through binding with vitamin D receptors, which dimerises with retinoid X receptor. This complex binds to vitamin D-responsive elements inside the promoter regions of vitamin D-responsive genes. Vitamin D has a key role in innate immunity activation; the production of antimicrobial peptides (cathelicidin and defensins) following Toll-like receptor stimulation by pathogen lipopeptides is dependent on sufficient level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Clinically, there is evidence of the association of vitamin D insufficiency and respiratory tract infections. There is also some evidence of the prevention of infections by vitamin D supplementation. Randomised controlled trials are warranted to explore this preventive effect.

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Corresponding author
Corresponding author: Ilkka Laaksi, fax +358 3 3551 6170, email
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