Thursday, May 13, 2010

deficient levels of zinc?

Michael Carter for Aidsmap (May 13, 2010)

Zinc supplements: a safe, cheap and effective way of preventing dangerous CD4 cell loss in patients with HIV?

Zinc supplementation significantly reduces the risk of CD4 cell counts falling below the critical 200 cells/mm3 level, US investigators report in the June 15th edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Daily doses of zinc also reduced reported diarrhea.

“Nutritional levels of zinc supplementation given to HIV-infected adults resulted in a 4-fold decrease in the likelihood of immunological failure”, comment the investigators.

Adequate zinc levels are essential for good immune function. However, research has shown that as many as 50% of HIV-positive patients have deficient levels of zinc, and this has been associated with faster HIV disease progression and an increased risk of death.

Supplementation with zinc has been shown to delay HIV disease progression.

The risk of potentially life-threatening opportunistic infections is high for HIV-positive patients when their CD4 cell count falls below 200 cells/mm3. When a patient’s CD4 cell count falls below this threshold, they are defined as having experienced immunological failure, as are individuals whose CD4 cell count does not increase after starting HIV treatment.

Investigators in the US wished to see if daily supplementation with zinc helped to reduce the risk of immunological failure, illness, and death in a cohort of 231 HIV-positive patients in the United States.

The investigators suggest that zinc supplementation prevented immunologic failure by improving thymic function.

They conclude, “this evidence supports the recommendation of zinc therapy as a safe, simple, and cost-effective tool to improve the immune response and to reduce morbidity and should be considered as an adjunct therapy for HIV infection.”


Randomized, controlled clinical trial of zinc supplementation to prevent immunological failure in HIV-infected adults.
Marianna K. Baum, Shenghan Lai, Sabrina Sales, J. Bryan Page, and Adriana Campa
Clinical Infectious Diseases 50: online edition, 2010. doi: 10.1086/652864

Link to CID abstract

Link to Aidsmap article

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