The addition of zinc to standard antimicrobial treatment may accelerate recovery from pneumonia, say researchers in this week’s issue of the Lancet.
Pneumonia is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in children less than five years old. Zinc is reported to prevent pneumonia, and to prevent and treat diarrhoea, and it may boost the body’s immune response to infection.
W. Abdullah Brooks and colleagues from the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, investigated whether zinc would help children between 2 and 23 months old with severe pneumonia. In the study, 270 children were randomly assigned to receive 20 mg zinc per day, or a placebo, in addition to standard hospital antibiotics.
Children given zinc recovered from severe pneumonia an average of one day earlier than did those given placebo, and their average stay in hospital was one day shorter. The zinc supplement was safe and well tolerated. Since a course of zinc treatment costs only pennies a day, and one day in the study hospital costs $25 (US), the potential cost savings are substantial.
Dr Brooks comments: “The effects on treatment failure are striking, have significant implications for reduction of antimicrobial resistance by decreasing multiple antibiotic exposures, and could help reduce complications and death in situations where second line drugs are not available.”
Lancet 2004; 363: 1683-88