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Administering Zinc Aids Recovery and Reduces Mortality in COVID-19 Patients, Finds New Study

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 05 Mar 2021
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Administering zinc supplements to COVID-19 patients with low levels of this element may be a strategy to reduce mortality and recovery time, according to a new study.

In the study conducted by physicians and researchers from the Hospital del Mar (Barcelona, Spain) and Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona, Spain), administering zinc to COVID-19 patients was not only found to help towards their recovery but also help to prevent risk groups, like the elderly, from suffering the worst effects of the disease.

The study analyzed the zinc levels of 249 adult patients treated at the centre between 9 March and 1 April 2020, with an average age of 65 years. The most common symptoms presented at the time of admission were fever, cough and dyspnea. In all cases, they analyzed their blood zinc levels, considering those under 50 μ/dl as being low. One in four patients had low levels of zinc. This group had more severe symptoms and higher levels of inflammation as measured by two markers, C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin 6 (IL-6), which mediate the inflammatory response. On average, their length of hospital stay was three times longer than patients with higher levels of zinc (25 days compared to eight).

Regarding mortality, zinc levels were significantly higher in patients who survived the infection, 62 μ/dl, versus 49 μ/dl for those who died. Moreover, one in five patients with low zinc levels died. Conversely, the mortality rate of those presenting higher levels upon admission was 5%. The study reveals that a one-unit increase of zinc in blood plasma is directly linked to a 7% reduction of the risk of dying from COVID-19.

The results confirmed that the poor prognosis in patients with low concentrations of zinc is due both to the effect that a lack of zinc has on immune imbalance and the increase in viral load, as they found that low levels of zinc enhance the expansion of the virus in infected cells. At the same time, the results indicated that an element must be sought to enable enhancing the activity of zinc in the cell to block viral replication, as their studies have shown that contrary to what had been speculated at the onset of the pandemic, chloroquine cannot perform this function.

"We have shown the importance of zinc levels in patients' blood as an additional predictor of outcome in COVID-19, as well as its potential as a therapeutic tool for treatment," said Dr. Robert Güerri, a physician at the Infectious Diseases Service of Hospital del Mar. "We therefore propose this variable as a new parameter to predict the evolution of patients and we propose initiating clinical trials concerning zinc supplementation in patients with low levels admitted for COVID-19 and implementing programs to administer supplements to groups at risk of having low zinc levels to reduce the effects of the pandemic."

Related Links:
Hospital del Mar
Pompeu Fabra University

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