Sun-exposed oyster mushrooms boost TB patients’ vitamin D levels, immune response
01/29/2020 // Michael Alexander // Views

Despite the advancements in medication and the increased availability of antimicrobial treatments, tuberculosis (TB) still remains one of the deadliest infectious diseases in low income countries today, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) who noted in its 2019 Global Tuberculosis Report that the disease infected over 10 million people in 2018, of which around 1.5 million died.

According to the WHO, this is mainly due to the emergence of drug-resistant strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

There is good news, however.

Researchers from the University of Hohenheim in Germany found that sun-exposed oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) may be used as a readily available alternative source for vitamin D for TB patients. According to the researchers, the dried oyster mushrooms will function as an adjunctive therapy to standard anti-TB treatment.

“TB is becoming more difficult to fight due to the emergence of drug-resistant strains, creating an urgent need for new treatments that can support first-line drugs,” said researcher Tibebeselassie Seyoum Keflie, a doctoral fellow at the university’s Institute of Biological Chemistry and Nutrition, and presenting author of the study.

Keflie and fellow researcher Hans Konrad Biesalski based their research on existing literature exploring the use of vitamin D as a means to treat the disease, especially since studies have shown that vitamin D induces the body to form an antimicrobial compound that attacks M. tuberculosis. (Related: The effectiveness of tuberculosis drugs dramatically increases when taken with vitamin C.)


The use of P. ostreatus as an alternative source of vitamin D is ideal for low income countries, Keflie noted, not only because the mushrooms themselves are relatively easy to grow, but also because they can be processed and distributed with relative ease, as well as administered in a safe, cheap and easy-to-replicate manner.

Keflie stressed that although fresh oyster mushrooms contain almost no vitamin D, they produce it after exposure to sunlight -- much like the human body.

“This is the first time that vitamin D derived from oyster mushrooms exposed to sun has been shown to be a potential adjunctive therapy for TB,” Keflie said in their study, noting that with the addition of educational outreach, it might be possible to teach people infected with TB to irradiate their own mushrooms for a brief period before cooking.

As per their study, Keflie and Biesalski pooled together a group of 64 TB patients from North Shewa in Ethiopia. The participants were separated into two groups, with 32 patients assigned to intervention and the other half to control. Those in the intervention group were provided with sandwiches enriched with 146 micrograms of vitamin D extracted from sun-exposed oyster mushrooms. This was repeated every morning during the first four months of their anti-TB treatments.

At the end of the four months, the researchers noted that 95 percent of patients who received the fortified sandwiches received the lowest TB severity scores on a scale of 1 to 5.

Not only that, the treatment group had significantly higher vitamin D levels compared to patients who did not receive the enriched sandwiches, with more than a third of them no longer showing any signs of vitamin D deficiency. The researchers also observed that patients who consumed the fortified bread had significant improvements in their immunological responses over the four months.

Head over to for more news and studies on foods that can help prevent and reverse vitamin D deficiency.

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