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DBT’s Revolutionary Finding for Public Health: Zinc Significantly Lowers Risk of Treatment Failure in Young Children with Serious Infections


The Secretary of Department of Biotechnology, Government of India today claimed to have made a significant stride in the field of improving public health with biotech researches. Speaking to Press he said that a revelation of a recent study by DBT will help in saving the new born children provided its outcome is put into proper application. He said treating young children with suspected serious bacterial infection with zinc in addition to standard antibiotics significantly reduces the likelihood of treatment failure (measured as the need for secondary antibiotic treatment within 7 days, need for intensive care, or death within 21 days), according to new research published Online First in The Lancet. In 2010, worldwide, infections were responsible for nearly two-thirds of deaths in children under 5, with around two-fifths of deaths occurring within the first month of life. Of the 1 million neonatal deaths that occur in India every year, more than a quarter are attributed to serious bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis. 

The study led by Dr. Shinjini Bhatnagar, currently a Professor at the Pediatric Biology Centre, in Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI) an autonomous institute supported by Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India, was conducted at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).This study was funded by Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Govt. of India.

The researchers report the results of the first study to assess the efficacy of zinc given in addition to standard antibiotic therapy for probable serious bacterial infections such as pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis. Young children aged between 7 and 120 days who were being treated for serious infections in three hospitals, were randomly assigned to receive either zinc (352 infants) or placebo (348) in addition to antibiotics. The results showed that children given zinc were 40% less likely to experience treatment failure (as defined above) than those given placebo. Risk of death was also reduced (by 43%) in the group assigned to zinc.

“Zinc is an accessible, low-cost intervention that could add to the effect of antibiotic treatment and lead to substantial improvement in treatment outcomes, particularly in low and middle income countries where millions of children die from serious infections every year, and where second-line antibiotics and appropriate intensive care might not be easily available”, explains Shinjini Bhatnagar from THSTI and AIIMS.

The authors say: “We would only need to give zinc to 15 children with probable serious bacterial infection zinc to prevent one treatment failure.”

They conclude: “Zinc syrup or dispersible tablets are readily available in the public and private health-care systems for treatment of acute diarrhoea in many countries of low and middle income and the incremental costs to make this intervention available for young infants with probable serious bacterial infection would be small.”

This study and the creation of THSTI are part of DBT (Govt. of India) efforts to catalyze the translation of basic scientific discovery into applications that target priority public health needs in India.

Source : Press Information Bureau

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