Results of a cell study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, found a link between vitamin D levels and the activity of certain allergy associated immune cells. Vitamin D may inhibit an allergic response in asthmatics to a common mold, suggests a new study from the US supporting the vitamin’s immune health effects.
According to Louisiana State University’s Dr. Jay Kolls, "We found that adding vitamin D not only substantially reduced the production of the protein driving an allergic response, but it also increased production of the proteins that promote tolerance."
Asthmatics experience a higher incidence of allergies, particularly to common mold (Aspergillus fumigatus). Their immune system’s overreaction can cause often severe complications for asthma sufferers as well as cystic fibrosis patients.
Most people don’t react to the environmental mold, despite that the fact that it is one of the most widespread fungal organisms inhaled by people. But asthmatics and patients with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), exposure can lead to significant allergic symptoms.
Approximately 15 percent of CF patients do experience severe allergic responses - called Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis (ABPA) – due to common mold inhalation.
Dr. Kolls and colleagues planned to determine why only certain sub-set of patients with asthma and CF suffered from the mold allergy. They assessed the factors that regulate the tolerance or sensitization to common mold during the development of ABPA.
The study found that the protein OX40L was important in fueling the allergic response to A. fumigatus. OX40L increased the Th2 cells’ activity and a more powerful response was observed in immune cells isolated from patients with ABPA.
The cells from the immune system of patients without ABPA were found to have higher levels of certain proteins that are crucial in the developing tolerance to the allergen.
The research demonstrated that high Th2 allergen reactivity in ABPA patients occurs with lower blood levels of vitamin D.
"We found that adding vitamin D not only substantially reduced the production of the protein driving an allergic response, but it also increased production of the proteins that promote tolerance," said Dr. Kolls.
The study concludes that its findings, “strongly implicates vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for ABPA”. Additionally it indicates that vitamin D enrichment or supplementation may be a valuable way to treat, and potentially prevent allergic reactions to common mold in people that are already experiencing significant lung conditions.
"Our study provides further evidence that vitamin D appears to be broadly associated with human health," added Kolls.
"The next step in our research is to conduct a clinical trial to see if vitamin D can be used to treat or prevent this complication of asthma and Cystic Fibrosis."
Kolls also said that the findings of the study “may be relevant to other allergies”.
He added: “Although there is no precise experimental data so show it, some of the results with knockout mice suggest that vitamin D could play a role with other allergens.”
Journal of Clinical Investigation
“Immune tolerance to Aspergillus fumigatus versus Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis: roles of OX40L and vitamin D in humans and mice.”Authors: J.L. Kreindler, C. Steele, N. Nguyen, Y.R. Chan , et al.