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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Zinc good for children with HIV

Zinc supplements are a safe and effective way to reduce illness in children with HIV, US researchers say.

Evidence shows that they cut the chance of diarrhoea and pneumonia without any risk of worsening the HIV infection, according to a report in The Lancet.

Questions had been raised over the use of zinc because HIV thrives on zinc for its structure and to help it penetrate immune cells and reproduce. Zinc also activates the body cells that are targeted by HIV - T lymphocytes.

But the work by Dr William Moss and colleagues at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, in Baltimore, suggests any safety fears are unfounded.

They recruited 96 children, aged between 6 months and five years, from Grey's Hospital in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, and randomly assigned the children to receive zinc supplements or a dummy drug each day for six months.

The zinc supplements did not result in an increase in blood HIV viral load - a measure of HIV severity - but the children receiving zinc did have less diarrhoea.



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