Research conducted at the Hospital del Mar in Barcelona has associated low zinc levels in patients with coronavirus with a worse prognosis. Early indications suggest that patients with lower blood zinc levels have a longer recovery period, as well as a higher risk of mortality.
The researchers suggest that zinc supplementation in Covid-19 patients with low zinc levels may be a strategy to reduce mortality and improve recovery time. For this reason, we have spoken with the prominent Dr. Navarro Moreno, specialist in Internal Medicine and member of Top Doctors.
What is zinc?
After iron, zinc is the most abundant trace element in the world. It is a structural and functional component of a large number of proteins (about 750 zinc-fingered transcription factors), a catalytic component of more than 2000 enzymes and a fundamental element in the functioning of the immune system.
Zinc does not have a specialized system for organic storage in the body:
- 30-45% is found in the cell nucleus.
- 50% in the cytoplasm and organelles.
- 5% in the cell membrane.
- Only 0.1% is found in plasma and is responsible for cell signaling (80% travels bound to albumin).
Zinc deficiency is associated with symptoms such as anorexia, depression, impaired sense of taste and smell, colds, flu or frequent infections, acne and other skin eruptions. It is estimated that 12% of people in developed countries are zinc deficient and up to 40% of the elderly.
How useful is it in our body?
It is essential for the functioning of the immune system, both innate and acquired immunity.
A recent review in in vitro experiments has shown zinc to have antiviral activity by inhibiting SARS COV RNA polymerase and shows indirect evidence of decreasing the activity of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), a known receptor for the virus.
Finally, it plays a protective, preventive and adjuvant role in COVID therapy, improving mucosal clearance and preventing lung damage produced by mechanical ventilation.
What does it mean to have high or low levels in our body?
Studies in small groups of patients have observed that low zinc (below 50 micrograms per deciliter of blood) was synonymous with poor prognosis: more inflammation, more intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and longer recovery time.
Mortality in this group would be 4 times higher than those with normal levels. In a recent study conducted at the Hospital del Mar in Barcelona, mortality in patients with lower zinc levels was 21%, compared to 5% in those with higher blood zinc levels.
What may be the relationship with covid-19?
More randomized, double-blind studies are needed to assess the real role of zinc in the prevention and treatment of patients with Covid-19. For now, the results of in vitro and observational studies are very promising.
There are already studies that demonstrate the usefulness of zinc in the prevention and treatment of other infectious diseases (especially respiratory), in fact, the WHO and UNICEF recommend zinc supplementation along with oral rehydration solution in third world children with diarrhea.