Scientists from the developing countries have said that it is possible to help children live healthy and strong by giving them a weekly supplement of zinc. The research report was published in the current edition of The Lancet.
From 2000 to 2003, pneumonia caused 2 million of 10·6 million deaths among children younger than 5 years worldwide. Diarrhea causes a further 1·9 million deaths in this group annually. Daily regimens of zinc have been reported to prevent acute lower respiratory tract infection and diarrhea, and reduce child mortality.
Scientists from International Center for Diarrhea Disease Research, Dhaka, Bangladesh, had looked at whether giving children zinc weekly could prevent clinical pneumonia* and diarrhea in children younger than two years. Between April 1999 and August 2000 the investigators recruited 1621 children aged 2-12 months from Kamalapur, Bangladesh. Half the children were assigned to a weekly 70mg dose of zinc and half to placebo. The investigators found mortality was reduced by 85% in the group assigned zinc. Children younger than 12 months in this group also had less pneumonia and diarrhea than those on placebo.
According to the researchers, zinc substantially reduced the incidence of pneumonia and other upper and lower respiratory tract disease, and modestly reduced that of diarrhea. However, the effect of zinc on mortality was strong. Zinc might be progressively protective against more invasive and severe disease, leading to an 85% reduction in overall mortality, primarily owing to pneumonia.
Source: Newswise, The Lancet