Neonatal vitamin A supplementation for the prevention of mortality and morbidity in term neonates in low and middle income countries

The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews has published ‘Neonatal vitamin A supplementation for the prevention of mortality and morbidity in term neonates in low and middle income countries’.

Vitamin A deficiency is a major public health problem in low and middle income countries. Vitamin A supplementation in children six months of age and older has been found to be beneficial, but no effect of supplementation has been noted for children between one and five months of age. Supplementation during the neonatal period has been suggested to have an impact by increasing body stores in early infancy.

Given the high burden of death among children younger than five years of age in low and middle income countries, and the fact that mortality in infancy is a major contributory cause, it is critical to obtain sound scientific evidence of the effect of vitamin A supplementation during the neonatal period on infant mortality and morbidity. Evidence provided in this review does not indicate a potential beneficial effect of vitamin A supplementation among neonates at birth in reducing mortality during the first six months or 12 months of life.

This finding shows an absence of a clear indication of the biological mechanism through which vitamin A could affect mortality. Along with substantial conflicting findings from individual studies conducted in settings with potentially varying levels of maternal vitamin A deficiency and infant mortality, absence of follow-up studies assessing any long-term impact of a bulging fontanelle after supplementation and the finding of a potentially harmful effect among female infants, additional research is warranted before a decision can be reached regarding policy recommendations for this intervention.

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