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December 7, 1999

Zinc Reduces Pneumonia by 41 Percent and Diarrhea by Up to 25 Percent

Below are highlights of a pooled analysis of ten randomized, controlled trials to be published in the Journal of Pediatrics on December 6, 1999. Further information will be available on the Child Health Research website as of December 7,1999, or is available upon request.

Pneumonia and diarrhea claim the lives of millions of children each year. But now, scientists from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and The World Health Organization have found that dietary zinc supplementation reduces pneumonia incidence by 41 percent and diarrhea by as much as 25 percent according to a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics (Mosby) on December 6, 1999.

To provide a complete and accurate summary of the effects of zinc supplementation on infectious diseases, Robert E. Black and Sunil Sazawal, of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, on behalf of the Zinc Investigators’ Collaborative Group, conducted a pooled analysis of original data from all identified published and unpublished trials. Seven continuous and three short-course studies of zinc supplementation were included in the two sets of pooled analyses. No significant variations were seen in the effects of zinc in subgroups of children stratified by age, gender, and weight. Likewise, no significant variations were detected between short-course zinc supplementation and continuous, or long-term supplementation.

In sum, the effect of zinc supplementation on the prevention of diarrhea compared favorably with other interventions such as clean water and sanitation or breastfeeding, and zinc had a greater preventive effect for pneumonia than any other current intervention. Zinc supplementation can now be incorporated into child health programs around the world to help reduce the millions of preventable deaths from these diseases.

Zinc experts include:

Robert E. Black, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
Sunil Sazawal, MPH, PhD, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health 
Anuraj Shankar, DSc, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
Olivier Fontaine, MD, World Health Organization

Public Affairs Media Contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons or Kenna Brigham @ 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu.