Antioxidant vitamins E and C as adjunct therapy of severe acute lower-respiratory infection in infants and young children: a randomized controlled trial

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To evaluate the effect of antioxidant Vitamins E and C as adjunct therapy of severe acute lower respiratory infection (ALRI) in children.


Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.


A large childrens' hospital serving the urban poor in Kolkata, India.


Children aged 2-35 months admitted with severe ALRI.


In total, 174 children were randomly assigned to receive α-tocopherol 200 mg and ascorbic acid 100 mg twice daily or placebo for 5 days. All children received standard treatment for severe ALRI. Outcome measures were: time taken to recover from a very ill status, fever, tachypnoea, and feeding difficulty; and improvement in oxidative stress and immune response indicated by thiobarbituric acid reacting substances (TBARS) and response to skin antigens, respectively.


Recovery rate ratios (95% CI) using proportional hazards model were 0.89 (0.64-1.25), 1.01 (0.72-1.41), 0.86 (0.57-1.29), and 1.12 (0.77-1.64) for very ill status, feeding difficulty, fever, and tachypnoea, respectively. TBARS values were high and similar in the two groups at admission, discharge, and at 2 weeks follow-up. Serum α-tocopherol significantly increased in treated group at discharge. Immune response to skin antigens were very poor at admission and after 2 weeks, in both groups.


Infants with severe ALRI failed to benefit from two antioxidant nutrients as adjunct therapy. Severe ALRI in infants may cause cell-mediated immune dysfunction. We need a better understanding of oxidative processes in growing infants to help us better design interventions with antioxidant therapy.

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