New Delhi, May 31: Two teaspoons of zinc daily along with standard antibiotics may help infants overcome severe life-threatening bacterial infections, according to a study in India that doctors say points to a new strategy to save babies.
The study, described as the world’s first to evaluate zinc’s use in acute infections in infants between 7 days and 120 days old, has found that adding 10mg zinc to antibiotics led to a significant reduction in the risk of treatment failure.
The findings, published today in the journal Lancet, suggest that zinc could become an inexpensive and easily accessed micronutrient to improve treatment outcomes in such infections and thus reduce infant mortality.
In the study, doctors divided 700 infants with suspected bacterial infections into two groups — one group received zinc, the other a placebo — and found that infants on zinc were 40 per cent less likely to experience treatment failure than infants on placebo.
“We’ve got very encouraging results, but they will need to be replicated through a larger study,” said Nitya Wadhwa, a paediatrician involved in the research at the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute in Gurgaon.
The doctors observed 34 treatment failures — defined as need for secondary antibiotic treatment within seven days, need to treatment in intensive care, or death — in 332 infants who received zinc and 55 treatment failures in 323 infants on placebo.
The researchers said the exact mechanism of this 40 per cent relative risk reduction remained unknown, but independent studies suggest zinc helps strengthen the human body’s immune system.
The infants who were included in the study had signs of severe bacterial infections such as convulsions, fast breathing, severe chest indrawing, grunting, refusal to feed or drink, lethargy, and high fever.