Cheap way to save lives in the developing world?

VITAMIN A supplementation could dramatically reduce child deaths in the developing world, a joint UK-Pakistani study has confirmed.

The research, assessing 43 trials involving 220,000 children in low and middle income countries, showed supplementation could reduce all-cause mortality by up to 24%.

“Supplements are inexpensive and have few side-effects,” the authors said, pointing to “compelling evidence” that supplements could prevent death and illness in children aged six months to five years.

According to the World Health Organisation, up to 190 million children in this age-bracket are vitamin A deficient, and at increased vulnerability to diarrhoea, measles and blindness.

BMJ 2011, online 25 August