Pneumonia wonder drug: Zinc saves lives

February 8, 2012

Respiratory tract infections, including pneumonia, are the most common cause of death in children under the age of five. In a study looking at children given standard antibiotic therapy, new research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Medicine shows how zinc supplements drastically improved children's chances of surviving the infection. The increase in survival due to zinc (on top of antibiotics) was even greater for HIV infected children.

In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, 350 children, aged from six months to five years old, were treated with standard at Mulago Hospital. Half the children were given zinc and the other half a placebo.

The researchers from Makerere University found that while there was no difference between zinc and placebo in the time it took to recover from the infection (measured by time it took to return to a normal temperature, reparatory rate and ) the risk of death between the groups was very different. 4% of the children taking zinc died compared to 12% of the children without zinc. This means that an extra eight out of 100 children could have been saved by taking zinc. Among the HIV infected children this rose to 26 out of every 100.

Prof James Tumwine explained, "Zinc is known to bolster the immune system and is rife all over the developed, and developing, world. In Uganda, where this study was performed, zinc deficiency in some areas can be as high as 70%. We would only need to give 13 of these children with pneumonia zinc on top of their antibiotics to save one life. This equates to about 4 USD – a small price to pay."

More information: Zinc adjunct therapy reduces case fatality in severe childhood pneumonia: a randomized double blind placebo-controlled trial, Maheswari G Srinivasan, Grace Ndeezi, Cordelia Katureebe Mboijana, Sarah Kiguli, Gabriel S Bimenya, Victoria Nankabirwa and James K Tumwine, BMC Medicine (in press)

Related Stories

Zinc lozenges may shorten common-cold duration

July 26, 2011

Depending on the total dosage of zinc and the composition of lozenges, zinc lozenges may shorten the duration of common cold episodes by up to 40%, according to a study published in the Open Respiratory Medicine Journal.

Zinc lozenges may shorten common cold duration

August 16, 2011

Depending on the total dosage of zinc and the composition of lozenges, zinc lozenges may shorten the duration of common cold episodes by up to 40%, says Dr. Harri Hemila from the University of Helsinki.

Recommended for you

Experimental MERS vaccine shows promise in animal studies

July 28, 2015

A two-step regimen of experimental vaccines against Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) prompted immune responses in mice and rhesus macaques, report National Institutes of Health scientists who designed the vaccines. ...

Can social isolation fuel epidemics?

July 21, 2015

Conventional wisdom has it that the more people stay within their own social groups and avoid others, the less likely it is small disease outbreaks turn into full-blown epidemics. But the conventional wisdom is wrong, according ...

Lack of knowledge on animal disease leaves humans at risk

July 20, 2015

Researchers from the University of Sydney have painted the most detailed picture to date of major infectious diseases shared between wildlife and livestock, and found a huge gap in knowledge about diseases which could spread ...

IBD genetically similar in Europeans and non-Europeans

July 20, 2015

The first genetic study of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to include individuals from diverse populations has shown that the regions of the genome underlying the disease are consistent around the world. This study, conducted ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.