Background: Pneumonia is a leading cause of illness and death in young children. Interventions to improve case management of pneumonia are needed.
Objective: Our objective was to measure the effect of zinc supplementation in children with pneumonia in a population in which zinc deficiency is common.
Design: In a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, children aged 2-35 mo with severe (n = 149) or nonsevere (n = 2479) pneumonia defined according to criteria established by the World Health Organization were randomly assigned to receive zinc (10 mg for children aged 2-11 mo, 20 mg for children aged > or =12 mo) or placebo daily for 14 d as an adjuvant to antibiotics. The primary outcomes were treatment failure, defined as a need for change in antibiotics or hospitalization, and time to recovery from pneumonia.
Results: One of 5 children did not respond adequately to antibiotic treatment; the odds ratios between zinc and placebo groups for treatment failure were 0.95 (95% CI: 0.78, 1.2) for nonsevere pneumonia and 0.97 (95% CI: 0.42, 2.2) for severe pneumonia. There was no difference in time to recovery between zinc and placebo groups for nonsevere (median: 2 d; hazard ratio: 1.0; 95% CI: 0.96, 1.1) or severe (median: 4 d; hazard ratio: 1.1; 95% CI: 0.79, 1.5) pneumonia. Regurgitation or vomiting < or =15 min after supplementation was observed more frequently among children in the zinc group than among those in the placebo group during the supplementation period (37% compared with 13%; odds ratio: 0.25; 95% CI: 0.20, 0.30).
Conclusion: Adjuvant treatment with zinc neither reduced the risk of treatment failure nor accelerated recovery in episodes of nonsevere or severe pneumonia. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT00148733.