Zinc treatment for diarrhoea reduces child deaths

Giving zinc as a treatment can reduce morbidity and mortality from diarrhoea in children. A trial by Baqui and colleagues in rural Bangladesh found that zinc treatment significantly reduced the incidence of diarrhoea and acute lower respiratory infection, admissions to hospital due of diarrhoea, and other non-injury related causes of death in children.

The impact on mortality was large. Zinc treatment is a simple and inexpensive intervention that can be used within existing diarrhoeal disease control efforts.

It is known that zinc deficiency is highly prevalent in children in developing countries. Zinc supplements given during diarrhoea reduce the duration and severity of treated episodes.

If given for 14 days during and after diarrhoea, zinc reduces the incidence of diarrhoea and pneumonia in the subsequent two to three months.

What this study adds:

  • Zinc used as a treatment for diarrhoea reduces mortality in children
  • Zinc reduces admissions to hospital for diarrhoea
  • The impact of zinc on mortality and morbidity can be achieved in a realistic large scale public health programme.

The researchers conclude: “The lower rates of child morbidity and mortality with zinc treatment represent substantial benefits from a simple and inexpensive intervention that can be incorporated in existing efforts to control diarrhoeal disease.”


Abdullah H Baqui, Robert E Black, Shams El Arifeen et al. Effect of zinc supplementation started during diarrhoea on morbidity and mortality in Bangladeshi children: community randomised trial. BMJ 2002;325:1059

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