Report of the WHO technical consultation on vitamin A in newborn health: mechanistic studies
Geneva, Switzerland, 1-3 December 2009
Vitamin A deficiency among the world’s poor and underprivileged populations is a considerable public health problem, as it can lead to blindness, decreased immune function and ultimately death. Its causes include poverty, infections and lack of access to traditional foods that historically have provided adequate provitamin A.
Vitamin A supplementation has been promoted as an essential child survival intervention in children 6–59 months of age. Current interest in vitamin A supplementation in the neonatal period (0–28 days) has been sparked by three trials (Indonesia, India and Bangladesh) showing a reduction (15–64%) and three trials (Nepal, Zimbabwe and Guinea-Bissau) showing no effect on infant mortality.
The Department of Nutrition for Health and Development (NHD) convened a technical consultation in December 2009 with key experts to review in depth the current knowledge on the role of vitamin A in immunology, the metabolism of vitamin A in early life, the use of animal models for the study of the mechanisms of action of vitamin A and the biological plausibility of vitamin A supplementation in reducing neonatal mortality. This report summarizes the discussions and presents the background papers used for the meeting deliberations.