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Seriously Ill Children Administered Zinc In Addition To Antibiotics Respond Better, More Quickly To Treatment, Study Shows

“In a newly released clinical study, conducted in India” and published in the Lancet on Thursday, “hundreds of seriously ill infants who received zinc — an essential micronutrient for the immune system and human growth — as well as antibiotics, responded better and more quickly to treatment than those who did not,” IRIN reports, adding, “This finding is the first proof that zinc supplements may boost infant survival from infections.” According to the news service, “More than 300 infants no older than 120 days (four months), hospitalized in New Delhi, the capital, for suspected meningitis (an infection of the brain or spinal cord lining), pneumonia (a lung infection) or sepsis (blood poisoning), were given zinc in addition to antibiotics” and “were found to be 40 percent less likely to experience ‘treatment failure’ — needing a second antibiotic within one week of the first treatment, or intensive care or death within 21 days — than those given a placebo.”

“Multiple medical studies have identified widespread zinc deficiency in low- and middle-income countries, and how this increases the risk of infection, but the research has thus far focused on children at least six months old,” IRIN writes. The WHO “recommended zinc and oral rehydration salts (ORS) to treat diarrhea, a symptom of infections and a leading child killer, in 2004,” yet “only a ‘very small proportion’ of children who need zinc have access to it, according to a 2009 WHO bulletin,” IRIN notes. “Policy changes are just one part of rolling out zinc supplements, Kenneth Brown, a professor of nutrition and child health at the University of California-Davis, told IRIN,” the news service adds. “The distribution system — from central stores to peripheral facilities — must be functioning efficiently, and clinicians must be trained in when and how to use the [zinc] supplements if the programs are actually going to be effective,” Brown said, IRIN writes (5/31).

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