It's rare, but sometimes scientists find that going backwards in medicine actually has an advantage. Do you remember the recent Tuberculosis scare that many airplane passengers had when that passenger was discovered to be flying against doctors' orders? If I had been a fellow passenger on that airplane, I would have loved to have known about the way they used to treat tuberculosis patients before the antibiotic era.
Scientists have recently found that in healthy people who have been exposed to tuberculosis, a single oral dose of vitamin D enhances their immunity against this bacterial infection. It was this same vitamin that was used to treat TB years ago, said the authors of a new report on vitamin d supplements and TB, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, July 15th 2007 edition.
The problem in the past was that no doctor ever studied this therapy using modern clinical trial protocols. This group therefore conducted a clinical trial in which they assigned 192 healthy adults who had been exposed to tuberculosis to receive a single oral dose of 2.5 milligrams of vitamin D or a placebo. Of the 192 subjects, 131 participants were included in the final analysis of primary outcome after losing some in the followup.
Of these, 64 received placebo and 67 received vitamin D. After 6 weeks, the subjects were tested for evidence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bug that causes TB. The researchers found that the vitamin D supplement significantly enhanced the subjects' immunity to M. tuberculosis compared with those who received the placebo.
Based on these findings, the team is now going back to determine if the same vitamin can actually prevent the reoccurrance of latent infections.
It's amazing how some of our oldest remedies actually have their basis in fact!