British Journal of Nutrition

Research Article

Zinc and childhood infectious disease morbidity and mortality

Robert E. Blacka1 c1 and Sunil Sazawala1

a1 Department of International Health, School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University 615 N. Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA

Abstract

Zinc is an essential mineral and deficiency results in abnormal immune function and higher rates of infectious diseases. Randomized controlled trials of zinc supplementation have been conducted in children in developing countries to determine effects on infectious disease morbidity and mortality. Zinc-supplemented children have been found to have lower rates of diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria in comparison with children not given zinc. Zinc used as an adjunct to fluid and dietary management of acute and persistent diarrhea has been found to reduce diarrheal duration and severity. Preliminary evidence suggests that zinc supplementation in children in poor developing country settings may also reduce infant mortality, but larger trials are needed to address this important issue. Preventive and therapeutic interventions should be implemented in developing countries where zinc deficiency is likely to be prevalent.

Correspondence:

c1 * Corresponding author: Dr Robert E. Black, fax +410 955 7159, email rblack@jhsph.edu