Zinc could reduce infant mortality in diarrhoea

July 16th, 2008 - 12:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 16 (IANS) A zinc supplement could help cut down millions of diarrhoeal deaths among infants every year in the developing world, according to a study. The findings of the study supports World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for the treatment of diarrhoea with zinc, although not in the very young.

“Zinc is clearly of benefit to children with diarrhoea,” said lead researcher Marzia Lazzerini of Health Services and International Health in Trieste, Italy.

Diarrhoea annually causes two million deaths among infants aged between 6 months and 5 years.

Zinc is a micronutrient that plays a critical role in physical growth as well as in gastro-intestinal and immune function. Its main dietary sources are red meat, fish and dairy products, but these are costly and in short supply in many developing countries.

Currently, WHO advises treating a child with zinc between 10 and 14 days, as well as giving oral rehydration salts to reduce the risk of death due to dehydration.

Cochrane researchers identified 18 trials of zinc treatment that together involved 6,165 people from Asia, South America and Africa.

Collectively the trials show that zinc is effective in reducing the duration of diarrhoea in children between 6 months and 5 years. Below 6 months, two large trials involving 1,334 children in three continents found no effect.

“These studies back up previous research that shows zinc can play an important role in restoring children with diarrhoea to full health,” Lazzerini said.

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