Pneumonia wonder drug: Zinc saves lives

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

Childhood diarrhea: Treat with zinc over 6 months of age

date Jul 16, 2008

Zinc supplementation benefits children suffering from diarrhoea in developing countries, but only in infants over six months old, Cochrane Researchers have found. Their study supports World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines ...

Zinc lozenges may shorten common-cold duration

date Jul 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.

Supplementary approach to malaria

date Feb 05, 2008

Could a simple vitamin A and zinc supplement help protect young children from malaria? A randomized double blind trial reported in the open access publication, Nutrition Journal, would suggest the answer is yes.

Recommended for you

US Ebola patient's health improves again

date 54 minutes ago

An American healthcare worker who contracted the dangerous Ebola virus while working in Sierra Leone has improved and is now listed in fair condition, hospital officials said Monday.

Endoscopes linked to outbreak of drug-resistant E. coli

date 1 hour ago

An outbreak of a novel Escherichia coli (E. coli) strain resistant to antibiotics has been linked to contaminated endoscopes in a Washington state hospital. The study indicates that industry standard clea ...

Fighting back against superbugs

date 3 hours ago

Antibiotics—and antibiotic resistance—are in the news once again, with announcements by McDonald's and Costco that they will eliminate antibiotics that are important to human medicine from use in the ...

Harnessing the power of microbes as therapeutics

date 4 hours ago

A new report recently released by the American Academy of Microbiology discusses how specific microbes can be modified to enhance their therapeutic potential for treating human diseases such as cancer and antibiotic resistant ...

New genetic link found for alcohol-related liver cirrhosis

date 4 hours ago

In most people, any liver damage that might occur from drinking alcohol is reversible. However, in 25 to 30 percent of alcoholics what begins as accumulation of fat in the liver progresses to inflammation, fibrosis and ultimately ...

Could camel antibodies protect humans from MERS?

date 4 hours ago

Antibodies from dromedary camels protected uninfected mice from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and helped infected mice expunge the disease, according to a study published online March 18th in the ...

User 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.