November 24, 2005

HIV children benefit from zinc supplements: study

LONDON (Reuters) - Zinc supplements could be a simple and
safe way to reduce illnesses such as diarrhea in children
infected with HIV, researchers said on Friday.

Zinc is an essential mineral for development and a healthy
immune system but there has been concern about the safety of
supplements for HIV patients because the virus that causes AIDS
also needs it to function and replicate.

But scientists from the United States and South Africa, who
studied the effect of the supplements in 96 children, said they
are safe for children with HIV, which weakens the immune system
and make sufferers more vulnerable to infections and illnesses.

"Zinc supplementation could be a simple and cost-effective
intervention to reduce morbidity and mortality in children with
HIV infection," said Dr William Moss, of Johns Hopkins School
of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland.

In a study reported in The Lancet medical journal, Moss and
doctors from Grey's Hospital in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
said the supplements did not produce any adverse effects in the

Youngsters who took the supplements for 6 months had less
diarrhea than children who had been given a placebo, or dummy

Although the World Health Organization (WHO) has improved
access to antiretroviral drugs in poor countries, Moss said the
treatments are not available for many children.

"Consequently more than half of these children die before
the age of 3 years, most commonly of respiratory tract
infections and diarrheadisease," he said.

An estimated 40.3 million people, including about 2.3
million children under 15 years old, are living with HIV,
according to the latest figures released by UNAIDS.

The UN agency leading the global battle against HIV/AIDS
said about 570,000 children died from AIDS in 2005.

Moss and his colleagues said there are few interventions to
reduce AIDS deaths in children.

"Programs to enhance zinc intake in deficient populations
with a high prevalence of HIV infection can be implemented
without concern for adverse effects on virus replication," Moss