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scientific articles

Zinc supplements for treating thalassaemia and sickle cell disease

key information

source: Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

year: 2013

authors: Swe KM, Abas AB, Bhardwaj A, Barua A, Nair NS


Haemoglobinopathies, inherited disorders of haemoglobin synthesis (thalassaemia) or structure (sickle cell disease), are responsible for significant morbidity and mortality throughout the world. The WHO estimates that, globally, 5% of adults are carriers of a haemoglobin condition, 2.9% are carriers of thalassaemia and 2.3% are carriers of sickle cell disease. Carriers are found worldwide as a result of migration of various ethnic groups to different regions of the world. Zinc is an easily available supplement and intervention programs have been carried out to prevent deficiency in people with thalassaemia or sickle cell anaemia. It is important to evaluate the role of zinc supplementation in the treatment of thalassaemia and sickle cell anaemia to reduce deaths due to complications.

To assess the effect of zinc supplementation in the treatment of thalassaemia and sickle cell disease.

We searched the Cochrane Cystic Fibrosis and Genetic Disorders Group’s Haemoglobinopathies Trials Register comprising references identified from comprehensive electronic database searches and handsearches of relevant journals and abstract books of conference proceedings.Date of most recent search: 01 February 2013.

We identified nine trials for inclusion with all nine contributing outcome data. Two trials reported on people with thalassaemia (n = 152) and seven on sickle cell anaemia (n = 307).In people with thalassaemia, in one trial, the serum zinc level value showed no difference between the zinc supplemented group and the control group, mean difference 47.40 (95% confidence interval -12.95 to 107.99). Regarding anthropometry, in one trial, height velocity was significantly increased in patients who received zinc supplementation for one to seven years duration, mean difference 3.37 (95% confidence interval 2.36 to 4.38) (total number of participants = 26). In one trial, however, there was no difference in body mass index between treatment groups.Zinc acetate supplementation for three months (in one trial) and one year (in two trials) (total number of participants = 71) was noted to increase the serum zinc level significantly in patients with sickle cell anaemia, mean difference 14.90 (95% confidence interval 6.94 to 22.86) and 20.25 (95% confidence interval 11.73 to 28.77) respectively. There was no significant difference in haemoglobin level between intervention and control groups, at either three months (one trial) or one year (one trial), mean difference 0.06 (95% confidence interval -0.84 to 0.96) and mean difference -0.07 (95% confidence interval -1.40 to 1.26) respectively. Regarding anthropometry, one trial showed no significant changes in body mass index or weight after one year of zinc acetate supplementation. In patients with sickle cell disease, the total number of sickle cell crises at one year were significantly decreased in the zinc sulphate supplemented group as compared to controls, mean difference -2.83 (95% confidence interval -3.51 to -2.15) (total participants 130), but not in zinc acetate group, mean difference 1.54 (95% confidence interval -2.01 to 5.09) (total participants 22). In one trial at three months and another at one year, the total number of clinical infections were significantly decreased in the zinc supplemented group as compared to controls, mean difference 0.05 (95% confidence interval 0.01 – 0.43) (total number of participants = 36), and mean difference -7.64 (95% confidence interval -10.89 to -4.39) (total number of participants = 21) respectively.

organization: Melaka-Manipal Medical College, Malaysia

DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD009415.pub2

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