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Paediatrics and Child Health


Background: Biannual vitamin A supplementation is a well-established survival tool for preschool children 6 months and older in vitamin A deficient populations but this schedule misses the opportunity to intervene on most young infant deaths. Randomised trials of neonatal vitamin A supplementation (NVAS) in the first few days of life to assess its impact on under 6-month mortality in low/middle-income countries have had varying results.
Methods: Investigators of 11 published randomised placebo-controlled NVAS trials (n=163 567 children) reanalysed their data according to an agreed plan and pooled the primary outcomes of mortality from supplementation through 6 and 12 months of age using random effects models and meta-regression. One investigator withdrew but allowed use of the data.
Findings Overall there was no effect of NVAS on infant survival through 6 (risk ratio (RR) 0.97; 95% CI 0.89 to 1.06) or 12 months of age (RR 1.00; 95% CI 0.93 to 1.08) but results varied by study population characteristics.NVAS significantly reduced 6-month mortality among the trials conducted in Southern Asia (RR 0.87; 95% CI 0.77 to 0.98), in contexts with moderate or severe vitamin A deficiency (defined as 10% or higher proportion of women with serum retinol 32% mothers had no schooling (RR 0.88; 95% CI 0.80 to 0.96). NVAS did not reduce mortality in the first 6 months of life in trials conducted in Africa, in contexts characterised by a low prevalence of vitamin A deficiency, lower rates of infant mortality and where maternal education was more prevalent. There was a suggestion of increased infant mortality in trials conducted in Africa (RR 1.07; 95% CI 1.00 to 1.15).Individual-level characteristics such as sex, birth weight, gestational age and size, age at dosing, parity, time of breast feeding initiation, maternal education and maternal vitamin A supplementation did not modify the impact of NVAS.
Conclusion NVAS reduced infant mortality in South Asia, in contexts where the prevalence of maternal vitamin A deficiency is moderate to severe and early infant mortality is high; but it had no beneficial effect on infant survival in Africa, in contexts where the prevalence of maternal vitamin A deficiency is lower, early infant mortality is low.This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial.


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