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News

Effect of zinc supplementation during diarrhea in Bangladeshi children

Zinc treatment lowers rates of child morbidity and mortality in Bangladeshi children with diarrheal disease, find researchers in this week's British Medical Journal.

News image

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In this study, a team of international researchers evaluated the effect, on morbidity and mortality, of providing daily zinc for 14 days to children with diarrhea.

The team assessed 8070 Bangladeshi children with diarrhea, aged between 3 and 59 months, over a 2 year period.

Rate of admission to hospital was lower in the children given zinc, compared to controls.
British Medical Journal

All children in the study were treated with oral rehydration therapy.

However, children with diarrhea in the intervention clusters were treated with zinc (20 mg per day for 14 days).

The researchers measured the duration of episode of diarrhea, incidence of diarrhea and acute lower respiratory infections, admission to hospital for diarrhea or acute lower respiratory infections, and child mortality.

Approximately, 40% of diarrheal episodes were treated using zinc during the first 4 months of the trial.

This rate rose to 67% in month 5, and then to more than 80% in month 7. Treatment was sustained at this level.

The team determined that children from the intervention cluster received zinc for about 7 days on average, during each episode of diarrhea.

They found that these children had a shorter duration and lower incidence of diarrhea than children in the comparison group.

In addition, incidence of acute lower respiratory infection was reduced in the intervention group.

Furthermore, admission to hospital of children with diarrhea was lower in the zinc intervention group than in the comparison group.

Admission for acute lower respiratory infection was also lower in the intervention group, however this was not found to be statistically significant.

The team also found the rate of non-injury deaths in the intervention clusters was considerably lower.

Prof. Abdullah Baqui's team concluded, "The lower rates of child morbidity and mortality with zinc treatment represent substantial benefits from a simple and inexpensive intervention that can be incorporated in existing efforts to control diarrheal disease".

BMJ 2002; 325: 1059-61
11 November 2002

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