Duration and severity of symptoms and levels of plasma interleukin-1 receptor antagonist, soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor, and adhesion molecules in patients with common cold treated with zinc acetate

J Infect Dis. 2008 Mar 15;197(6):795-802. doi: 10.1086/528803.


Background: Zinc lozenges have been used for treatment of the common cold; however, the results remain controversial.

Methods: Fifty ambulatory volunteers were recruited within 24 h of developing symptoms of the common cold for a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of zinc. Participants took 1 lozenge containing 13.3 mg of zinc (as zinc acetate) or placebo every 2-3 h while awake. The subjective scores for common cold symptoms were recorded daily. Plasma zinc, soluble interleukin (IL)-1 receptor antagonist (sIL-1ra), soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor 1, soluble vascular endothelial cell adhesion molecule, and soluble intercellular adhesion molecule (sICAM)-1 were assayed on days 1 and 5.

Results: Compared with the placebo group, the zinc group had a shorter mean overall duration of cold (4.0 vs. 7.1 days; P < .0001) and shorter durations of cough (2.1 vs. 5.0 days; P < .0001) and nasal discharge (3.0 vs. 4.5 days, P = .02) Blinding of subjects was adequate, and adverse effects were comparable in the 2 groups. Symptom severity scores were decreased significantly in the zinc group. Mean changes in plasma levels of zinc, sIL-1ra, and ICAM-1 differed significantly between groups.

Conclusion: Administration of zinc lozenges was associated with reduced duration and severity of cold symptoms. We related the improvement in cold symptoms to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of zinc.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Common Cold / blood
  • Common Cold / drug therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1 / blood*
  • Interleukin 1 Receptor Antagonist Protein / blood*
  • Male
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor / blood*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Zinc Acetate / administration & dosage*
  • Zinc Acetate / adverse effects
  • Zinc Acetate / blood


  • Interleukin 1 Receptor Antagonist Protein
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1
  • Zinc Acetate