Background & Aims: To investigate the effect of vitamin A supplementation on parameters of the immune system of vitamin A-deficient children.

Methods: The study was carried out in four phases: 1) determination of serum retinol in 631 children from 36 to 83 months of age; 2) assessment of immunological markers [immunoglobulins and complement fractions, immunophenotyping of T and B lymphocytes, and natural killer (NK) cells], blood count, and serum ferritin of 52 vitamin A-deficient children (serum retinol < 0.70 µmol/L); 3) supplementation of the 52 deficient children with 200,000 IU of vitamin A; 4) determination of serum retinol and the immunological parameters 2 months after vitamin A supplementation.

Results: Before vitamin A supplementation, 24.0 % of the children were anemic and 4.3 %had reduced ferritin concentrations. There was no significant difference between mean values of retinol according to the presence/absence of anemia. The mean values of the humoral and cellular immunological parameters did not show a statistically significant difference before and after supplementation with vitamin A. Children with concomitant hypovitaminosis A and anemia presented a significant increase in absolute CD4 and CD8 T-cell counts after vitamin A supplementation (p < 0.05).

Conclusion: Vitamin A had an effect on the recruitment of T and B lymphocytes to the circulation of children with hypovitaminosis A and anemia.