Zinc Supplements Safe, Reduce Morbidity in HIV-Positive Children, Study Says
Zinc could be a safe, "simple and cost-effective" intervention to reduce illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia in HIV-positive children, according to a study published in the Nov. 25 issue of the journal Lancet, Reuters reports. Scientists had been concerned that zinc supplements for HIV-positive children might not be safe because the virus uses the mineral -- which is important for the development and maintenance of a healthy immune system -- to replicate and infect new cells (Reuters, 11/25). William Moss of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and colleagues administered zinc supplements for six months to half of a group of 96 HIV-positive South African children between the ages of six months and five years. The other half of the children in the study received a placebo for six months. The children who received the zinc supplements had fewer occurences of diarrhea than the placebo group and did not experience an increase in HIV levels in their bloodstreams, according to the researchers (AFP/Yahoo! News, 11/25). The researchers concluded, "Programs to enhance zinc intake in deficient populations with a high prevalence of HIV-1 infection can be implemented without concern for adverse effects on HIV-1 replication. In view of the reductions in diarrhea and pneumonia, zinc supplementation should be used as adjunct therapy for children with HIV-1 infection" (Moss et al., Lancet, 11/26).
Other AIDS-Related Articles
The Nov. 26 issue of the Lancet included several other HIV/AIDS-related articles, some of which are listed below.
- "Use of total lymphocyte count for informing when to start antiretroviral therapy in HIV-infected children": The study found that total lymphocyte count is only slightly less predictive than CD4+ T cell counts for predicting disease progression among HIV-positive children. The researchers conclude that additional studies must be conducted to confirm their findings in resource-poor settings (Dunn et al., Lancet, 11/26).
- "Maintaining anti-AIDS commitment post '3 by 5'": The editorial says that the World Health Organization's 3 by 5 Initiative "will be remembered for its failure" but that "it should also be lauded for its extraordinary political successes." The editorial concludes, "The test for UNAIDS and WHO now will be whether they can create the necessary commitment to see the past two years' grand promises turned into action" (Lancet, 11/26).
- "HIV risks in incarcerated injection-drug users": This comment article calls on prison officials worldwide to implement programs, such as needle exchanges, to help prevent the spread of HIV among incarcerated populations (Wood et al., Lancet, 11/26).
- "Ashok Alexander: taking on the challenge of AIDS in India": The article profiles Alexander, who heads the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Indian AIDS initiative Avahan. The position "might prove to be his most challenging job yet," according to the Lancet (Shetty, Lancet, 11/26).