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TB and Vitamin D

Catrina Mueller's picture

“Consumption”, “King’s evil”, and the “white plague”. What do all of these have in common? They are all different names for the disease which we call Tuberculosis today.{1} Something with such threatening name should surely be quite the evil malady. In fact, “14,000 cases [of Tuberculosis, or TB,] were reported in 2005 in the United States”.{2} 14,000 cases? That’s not a terribly huge amount of people compared to the 2.4–3.3 million lives that AIDS claimed that same year. {3} And TB didn’t even kill all 14,000 of those people.

So what exactly is TB? And why was it called all these things in the past? TB originates from the bacteria “Mycobacterium tuberculosis”. {1} It can attack any part of the body, but it most commonly goes for the lungs.{2} TB was once a quite deadly disease that frequently killed those it infected. Active cases make victims become very pale (hence the moniker the “white plague”) and cough up blood (seeming to consume the victims from within, hence “consumption”) {1}.. TB was called the “King’s evil because it was believed that a king's touch would heal” the disease. {1}

Luckily, in the 1940’s, scientists began uncovering drugs that could help treat Tuberculosis. {2} Antibiotics such as “rifampicin and isoniazid” came upon the scene. Sadly, these drugs require “around 6 to 12 months to entirely eliminate mycobacteria from the body”{1}. In addition, TB is beginning to become resistant to these drugs, so some strains of TB can no longer be treated with rifampicin or isoniazid. These strains often pop up in people who, “have spent time with someone with drug-resistant active TB disease, do not take their medicine regularly, do not take all of their medicine as told by their doctor or nurse, develop active TB disease again, after having taken TB medicine in the past, or come from areas where drug-resistant TB is common”. {2}

So what else can help treat TB? According to recent studies, Vitamin D can! For years, scientists puzzled over the fact that people who have darker skin, especially those of African descent, tend to get TB more often than Caucasians. Vanguard research, however, “shows that vitamin D plays a key role in the production of a molecule called cathelicidin, which kills the tuberculosis bacteria.”{4} Dark skinned people get less Vitamin D from the sunlight due to the fact that the “skin pigment melanin - more abundant in darker skin - shields the body from the sun's rays, reduc[es] damage from ultraviolet light, but also reduc[es] vitamin D production.”{4} Cells in dark skinned people make way less cathelicidin than those of Caucasians. The study went on further to prove that “[a]dding a vitamin D precursor to the African-American serum [cells of African Americans] increased cathelicidin production.”{4}

This breakthrough is very good news, as this “dietary supplement costing just pennies - which can be rapidly distributed to areas of need - may be instrumental in reducing the frequency and severity of one of the world's deadliest diseases.”{4} The fact that a solution to TB is made possible by something as simple and easily obtained as Vitamin D leads me to wonder, is it probable that other deadly diseases can be cured by something so simple? I remember hearing during my middle school years that the bubonic plague can be easily cured by penicillin. So perhaps we are overlooking simple solutions to big problems. In the future, it would be wonderful if cancer could be abated by eating more fiber or AIDS could be cured by consuming more Vitamin C. As unlikely as these cures may be, the Vitamin D cure has proved that sometime, you just have to take a step back and see that that answer is really simpler than it was originally thought to be.



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Healthy Living for Life's picture

Vitamin D

This is good information. The fact that studies show 70% of children vitamin D deficient should raise some flags to the potential health hazards they face in the future.

Vitamins 's picture

So I can treat my TB I am

So I can treat my TB I am taking a daily Vitamin D supplement. Of course, I am trying to support this treatment with different products and supplements that I buy online from a health food store. Since I am taking this treatment, I feel much better.