Evaluation of zinc sulfate as an adjunctive therapy in COVID-19 critically ill patients: a two center propensity-score matched study

Crit Care. 2021 Oct 18;25(1):363. doi: 10.1186/s13054-021-03785-1.


Background: Zinc is a trace element that plays a role in stimulating innate and acquired immunity. The role of zinc in critically ill patients with COVID-19 remains unclear. This study aims to evaluate the efficacy and safety of zinc sulfate as adjunctive therapy in critically ill patients with COVID-19.

Methods: Patients aged ≥ 18 years with COVID-19 who were admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) in two tertiary hospitals in Saudi Arabia were retrospectively assessed for zinc use from March 1, 2020 until March 31, 2021. After propensity score matching (1:1 ratio) based on the selected criteria, we assessed the association of zinc used as adjunctive therapy with the 30-day mortality. Secondary outcomes included the in-hospital mortality, ventilator free days, ICU length of stay (LOS), hospital LOS, and complication (s) during ICU stay.

Results: A total of 164 patients were included, 82 patients received zinc. Patients who received zinc sulfate as adjunctive therapy have a lower 30-day mortality (HR 0.52, CI 0.29, 0.92; p = 0.03). On the other hand, the in-hospital mortality was not statistically significant between the two groups (HR 0.64, CI 0.37-1.10; p = 0.11). Zinc sulfate use was associated with a lower odds of acute kidney injury development during ICU stay (OR 0.46 CI 0.19-1.06; p = 0.07); however, it did not reach statistical significance.

Conclusion: The use of zinc sulfate as an additional treatment in critically ill COVID-19 patients may improve survival. Furthermore, zinc supplementation may have a protective effect on the kidneys.

Keywords: 30-Day mortality; COVID-19; Critically ill; Intensive care unit (ICU); SARS-CoV-2; Supplements; Trace element; Zinc.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • COVID-19 / mortality*
  • COVID-19 Drug Treatment*
  • Critical Illness / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy / methods*
  • Propensity Score
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Survival Rate
  • Zinc Sulfate / therapeutic use*


  • Zinc Sulfate