Micronutrients and Infectious Diseases: Thoughts on Integration of Mechanistic Approaches into Micronutrient Research

Christopher E. Taylor, Elizabeth S. Higgs
2000 Journal of Infectious Diseases  
Results of field and laboratory studies provide convincing evidence that micronutrient deficiencies contribute to the mortality and morbidity of infectious diseases. Despite encouraging results in large trials, understanding the mechanisms by which micronutrients contribute to the outcome of the encounter between an individual and an infectious agent requires additional hypothesis-driven research. Presumably, such understanding should lead to translational studies with targeted nutritional
more » ... py. Although these mechanistic studies are varied and complex, they must be done systematically and should include examination of the mechanisms by which micronutrients affect host-pathogen interactions, development of appropriate animal models and reliable methods for the assessment of micronutrient levels, and translation of the results of basic research findings into clinical studies. Moving the frontiers of micronutrient research from the laboratory to the field will be challenging. However, sound scientific research should lead toward better human health. Infectious diseases remain the biggest killer of children and young adults worldwide [1] despite scientific advances in immunology, biochemistry, and molecular biology. It is generally accepted that poor nutritional status increases susceptibility to infectious diseases and that severe micronutrient deficiencies lead to specific syndromes [2-6]; this awareness has led to the conduct of several micronutrient supplementation studies. However, quantification of the contribution of nutrition to infectious disease mortality is difficult. Although there has been considerable recent progress, little is known about the impact of subclinical micronutrient deficiencies on the immune system, susceptibility to various infectious pathogens, and clinical manifestations. Further, the basic mechanisms by which micronutrients alter the immune response and subsequently the resistance or susceptibility to infection are unknown. Of more importance, micronutrient studies could benefit from better understanding of the mechanisms involved in the interrelationships between micronutrients and infectious diseases. With this mechanistic view in mind, in September 1999 the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases sponsored a workshop [7] to examine the current cellular and molecular immune mechanisms by which micronutrients affect host-pathogen interactions. Participants included infectious disease experts, nutritionists, immunologists, and epidemiologists. At the end of the workshop, recommendations for future research were presented by the panel of experts [7] . These recommendations
doi:10.1086/315904 pmid:10944477 fatcat:2i7rpcvfcjfylar7xhv7ysg7ve