Zinc supplementation reduces diarrhea and death in Bangladeshi children

November 08, 2002

An international team of scientists, evaluated the effectiveness of zinc therapy delivered often for a short period during diarrhea episodes in 8,070 Bangladeshi children and documented signifi-cantly lower rates of child morbidity, hospitalization and non-injury death in children treated with zinc. The incidence of diarrhea was significantly less and non-injury deaths were 50% less in children residing in areas randomized to receive zinc than in children in the comparison clus-ters. The children in the zinc areas received 20 mg elemental zinc daily for 14 days during each episode of diarrhea in addition to oral rehydration therapy (ORS). In addition, the ORS use in-creased by 20% and antibiotic use decreased by 60% in the zinc clusters. Participating researcher and author, Abdullah Baqui, MBBS, MPH, DrPH will publish these findings in the British Medical Journal on November 9th, 2002.

Despite many advances, diarrheal diseases and the resulting dehydration are still responsible for about 2 million child deaths every year. Most cases occur in developing, resource-poor countries, where children suffer from malnutrition and access to clean water, safe sanitation, and health fa-cilities are limited. A recent WHO meeting reviewed the findings of this and other zinc trials and concluded that zinc supplements are efficacious in reducing the severity and duration of diarrhea and recom-mended that additional effectiveness studies should assess the feasibility of this intervention and the effects on antibiotic use, non-diarrheal morbidity and overall child mortality.

Said researcher Baqui, associate professor, International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, " the lower rates of child morbidity and mortality with zinc therapy represent substantial benefits from a simple and inexpensive intervention that can be incorpo-rated within existing diarrheal disease control efforts which should significantly improve child health and survival."
Research was conducted by scientists at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, ICDDR,B: Center for Health and Population Research, Bangladesh, and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The study was supported by the Johns Hopkins Family Health and Child Survival Cooperative Agreement and ICCDR,B Cooperative Agreement with funding from the US Agency for International Development.

If you would like further information about this study, or to arrange interviews with authors, please contact Gina M. Coco at: (410) 614-5439 E-mail: gcoco@jhsph.edu

Child Health Research Project

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