"Our research found that children who received vitamin A supplementation were less likely to become infected with malaria," said study leader Maria-Graciela Hollm-Delgado, postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Vitamin A appeared to be more protective under certain circumstances, including when administered during the rainy season, as well as when given to older children and when more time had passed since supplementation.

For the study, Hollm-Delgado and her colleagues analyzed national survey data from four sub-Saharan countries (Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Rwanda and Senegal) on more than 6,100 children between the ages of six and 59 months.

The researchers were looking for possible links between malaria rates and several types of childhood vaccines as well as vitamin A supplementation.

Only vitamin A was found to be protective against the disease. The researchers are not certain why vitamin A would reduce the rate of malaria infection, but they suspect it is because vitamin A, which is known to boost immunity, and improve the ability to fight off infection, may help the body clear out the malaria parasite more quickly.

The study appeared in the online journal eLife.

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