In a new study, researchers have led the development of a new model for studying vitamin D’s role in infection prevention.
They found that vitamin D treatment can dramatically reduce the number of disease-causing bacteria in skin wounds.
In addition to shedding light on infection-prevention potential, the study is important because it showed a new way to probe the mechanisms through which vitamin D regulates an important antimicrobial peptide in the body.
The research was conducted by Oregon State University scientists.
Vitamin D, which is fat-soluble and present in very few foods—including the flesh of fatty fish, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks—promotes calcium absorption in the gut and is needed for bone growth.
Vitamin D, manufactured by the body when triggered by sunlight, is also important for cell growth, neuromuscular function, and reduction of inflammation.
The researchers have been probing the vitamin’s role in combating infection, with past studies involving loading wound dressings and sutures with vitamin D.
The current study examines the bioactive form of vitamin D’s role in promoting the body’s production of the cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide, typically abbreviated to CAMP.
A peptide is a compound consisting of two or more amino acids linked in a chain, and CAMP is made by immune cells and cells that provide a barrier against infection, such as skin and gut cells.
The gene that codes for CAMP is present in humans and other primates. Other mammals including mice have a similar gene, Camp, but vitamin D does not trigger it.
To study how vitamin D and CAMP work together to help thwart infection, the team developed a line of mice that carry the CAMP gene but not Camp.
They showed that the mice with the human CAMP gene had increased resistance to gut infections, and that staph infections on their skin could be successfully treated with the bioactive form of the vitamin.
The scientists believe the novel model will be useful as research into vitamin D-induced expression of CAMP progresses, involving diseases caused by microorganisms and also conditions that are “non-pathogenic,” such as inflammatory bowel disease.
The finding, the team says, suggests vitamin D can be used to increase protection against infection via increased CAMP levels.
The lead author of the study is OSU scientist Adrian Gombart.
The study is published in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
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