Zinc Improves Recovery from Pneumonia

Zinc Improves Recovery from Pneumonia

Pneumonia often affects children with low birth weight or those whose immune systems are weakened by malnutrition or other diseases. It kills two million children each year. A new study shows yet again that young children with severe pneumonia benefit from taking zinc supplements. In this study, 270 infants between the ages of two and 23 months were given either 20mg of zinc per day or a dummy pill in addition to conventional antibiotics. Children given zinc recovered an average of one day earlier than those who had been given dummy pills. They also left hospital one day earlier, on average. The researchers believe zinc may speed recovery by reducing inflammation and lower obstruction in the airway. The findings showed that giving children zinc is cost effective.

A course of zinc treatment costs just US$0.15. A one-day stay in hospital in Bangladesh costs US$25. "In view of the high number of children in this age-group hospitalised with severe pneumonia, the cost savings could be substantial," say the researchers, from the Centre for Health and Population Research and Bloomberg School of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins University, writing in The Lancet. Zinc appears to significantly reduce the duration of fever and severity of illness in boys with pneumonia and other serious lower respiratory infections, according to a new study published in the March issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers studied 153 children aged between two months and two years old, who were hospitalised with severe acute lower respiratory infections. They found that recovery from very ill status and from fever in boys who received zinc treatments was 2.6 times and three times those in non-zinc-treated children.

Laptops May Damage Male Fertility

Men who use laptop computers could be unwittingly damaging their fertility, experts believe. Balancing it on the lap increases the temperature of the scrotum which is known to have a negative effect on sperm production, researchers found. Coupled with the rising popularity of these computers - about 150m people use them worldwide - much more research is needed say the US authors. Lead researcher Dr Yefim Sheynkin, from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, said: "Laptops can reach internal operating temperatures of over 70°C. "They are frequently positioned close to the scrotum, and as well as being capable of producing direct local heat, they require the user to sit with his thighs close together to balance the machine, which traps the scrotum between the thighs." The researchers asked 29 healthy male volunteers aged between 21 and 35 to take part in an experiment. They then recorded the temperature changes to the scrotum caused by laptop use and different seating positions over one hour time periods. Just sitting with the thighs together, a posture needed to balance a laptop, caused scrotal temperatures to rise by 2.1°C.

Protein Stops Heart Attack Damage

A protein produced by the heart during its development could be used to repair heart attack damage, research suggests. University of Texas scientists worked on mice, but hope their findings will eventually lead to new treatment for heart disease. The protein, Thymosin beta-4, is already used in clinical trials to promote wound healing on the skin.

The Nature research found it prevented cell death and limited scar tissue formation after a heart attack. Thymosin beta-4, is produced by embryos during the heart's development. It plays a key role in keeping heart cells alive, and ensuring they migrate to the right place. The Texas team simulated a heart attack in 58 adult mice by tying off the coronary artery. Half of the animals were given injections of Thymosin beta-4, and the rest a control injection of saline. The researchers found that Thymosin beta-4 caused fewer cells in the affected part of the heart to die, resulting in improved function even several weeks after the heart attack. They believe the protein triggers changes in cell metabolism to create stronger heart muscle cells that can resist the low oxygen conditions after a heart attack.

Lead researcher Professor Deepak Srivastava said it was hoped to launch clinical trials using the protein to treat the heart in the near future. The next step will be to determine the most effective dose, the best time to administer it, and how long it after a heart attack it can be given and still remain effective.

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