Demonstration of the effectiveness of zinc in diarrhoea of children living in Switzerland

Eur J Pediatr. 2015 Aug;174(8):1061-7. doi: 10.1007/s00431-015-2512-x. Epub 2015 Mar 7.


We designed a double-blinded randomized clinical trial of zinc (10 or 20 mg of zinc sulphate for 2-5 month-old or 6-59 month-old children, respectively, during 10 days) vs. placebo in otherwise healthy children aged 2 months to 5 years who presented with acute diarrhoea (i.e. ≥3 stools/day for less than 72 h). Eighty-seven patients (median age 14 months; range 3.1-58.3) were analysed in an intention-to-treat approach. Forty-two patients took zinc and 45 placebo. There was no difference in the duration nor in the frequency of diarrhoea, but only 5% of the zinc group still had diarrhoea at 120 h of treatment compared to 20% in the placebo group (P = 0.05). Thirty-one patients (13 zinc and 18 placebo) were available for per-protocol analyses. The median (IQR) duration of diarrhoea in zinc-treated patients was 47.5 h (18.3-72) and differed significantly from the placebo group (median 76.3; IQR 52.8-137) (P = 0.03). The frequency of diarrhoea was also lower in the zinc group (P = 0.02).

Conclusion: zinc treatment decreases the frequency and severity of diarrhoea in children aged 2 months to 5 years living in Switzerland. However, the intention-to-treat analysis reveals compliance issues that question the proper duration of treatment and the choice of optimal pharmaceutical formulation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diarrhea / diet therapy*
  • Diarrhea / physiopathology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Switzerland
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Zinc Compounds / administration & dosage
  • Zinc Compounds / therapeutic use*
  • Zinc Sulfate / administration & dosage
  • Zinc Sulfate / therapeutic use*


  • Zinc Compounds
  • Zinc Sulfate