Treating young children with suspected serious bacterial infection with zinc in addition to standard antibiotics significantly reduces the likelihood of treatment failure, according to Indian research published in The Lancet.
Researchers from the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute and All India Institute of Medical Sciences carried out the first study to assess the efficacy of zinc given in addition to standard antibiotic therapy for suspected serious bacterial infections such as pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis.
Young children aged between 7 and 120 days who were being treated with antibiotics for serious infections in three hospitals were randomly assigned to receive either 10mg zinc (352 infants) or placebo (348) each day, given orally.
Children given zinc were 40% less likely to experience treatment failure – measured as the need for secondary antibiotic treatment within seven days, need for treatment in intensive care, or death within 21 days – than those given placebo.
There were 34 treatment failures in 332 children who received zinc, and 55 in 323 children given placebo.
The authors said: “We would only need to give 15 children with probable serious bacterial infection zinc to prevent one treatment failure.”