Vitamin D and respiratory infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies

Reference Number: 
PGD5/SAtkinson/Vitamin D and respiratory infection
Dr Sarah Atkinson and Reagan Mogire



Respiratory infections are the leading causes of death of children worldwide. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked respiratory tract infections (RTI)  due to its role in modulating several immune pathways and suppressing inflammation (Pfeffer 2013). Recent reviews have reported vitamin D deficiency to be a risk factor for tuberculosis (Huang et al., 2016) and viral infections (Beard et al., 2011). Results from a systematic review of randomized clinical trials have indicated that vitamin D supplementation was protective against respiratory tract infections (Bergman et al., 2013). In a recent systematic review of prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Africa (unpublished), we found that patients with infections had generally lower vitamin D levels than healthy subjects. Although observational and interventional studies suggest that vitamin D deficiency could play a role in the incidence and severity of respiratory infections, the vitamin D status of patients with respiratory infections is inadequately characterised. The objective of this project will be to characterise the vitamin D status of patients with respiratory infections and how it compares to the general healthy populations.

Question to be addressed by interns

Research question; what is the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and vitamin D levels in patients with pneumonia, tuberculosis and bronchiolitis and how does it compare with healthy populations?

The student will carry out a systematic literature search for relevant case-control studies that have measured vitamin D levels in RTI patients and healthy controls. The student will conduct a meta-analysis of prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and mean vitamin D differences between the cases and healthy controls. The student will also carry out univariate and multivariate analysis to investigate the association between the diseases and vitamin D status.


Skills to be acquired by intern

  • Systematic literature review
  • Statistical data analyses and data management using of STATA and R- statistical skill to be gained include meta-analysis and various types of regressions analysis.
  • Manuscript writing


Training in biomedical sciences, immunology and infectious diseases. Training in statistics is highly desirable.



  1. Pfeffer PE, Hawrylowicz CM Vitamin D and lung disease Thorax 2012;67:1018-1020.
  2. Bergman P, Lindh ÅU, Björkhem-Bergman L, Lindh JD (2013) Vitamin D and Respiratory Tract Infections: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. PLoS ONE 8(6): e65835.
  3. Huang, S.-J., Wang, X., Liu, Z.-D., Cao, W.-L., Han, Y., Ma, A.-G., & Xu, S.-F. (2016). Vitamin D deficiency and the risk of tuberculosis: a meta-analysis. Drug Design, Development and Therapy, Volume11, 91--102. doi:10.2147/DDDT.S79870
  4. Beard, J. A., Bearden, A., & Striker, R. (2011). Vitamin D and the anti-viral state. Journal of Clinical Virology, 50(3), 194--200. doi:10.1016/j.jcv.2010.12.006


Application deadline: 11 February 2019