Zinc ion availability--the determinant of efficacy in zinc lozenge treatment of common colds

J Antimicrob Chemother. 1997 Oct;40(4):483-93. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.jac.a020864.


This is a re-analysis of reports from 1984 to 1992 of double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trials of zinc lozenges in the treatment of common colds. This re-analysis was performed to test the hypothesis that major variations in daily zinc ion availability (ZIA) between chemically different lozenge formulations caused differing results in these clinical trials. Solution chemistry computations determined the bioavailability of Zn2+ ions at physiological pH from the lozenges used in these clinical trails. ZIA was derived from Fick's laws of diffusion in a bio-electric field. Lozenges that released Zn2+ ions at physiological pH (positive ZIAs) shortened colds. Lozenges that released negatively charged zinc species at physiological pH (negative ZIAs) lengthened colds. Lozenges having a zero ZIA had no effect on common colds. Lozenges with ZIA = 100 shortened colds by 7 days while ZIA = -55 lozenges lengthened colds by 4.4 days. A linear dose-response relationship exists between ZIAs of zinc lozenges and changes in duration of common colds. It is concluded that: prospective efficacy of zinc lozenges can be predicted based upon readily determined ZIA factors and ZIAs; chemically different zinc lozenge formulations having greatly different ZIAs resulted in greatly differing results in clinical trials; mast cell granule-derived Zn2+ ions are the foundation of the primary immune system; and high ZIA zinc acetate lozenges are beneficial for common colds.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Availability
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Common Cold / drug therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Humans
  • Tablets
  • Zinc / pharmacokinetics
  • Zinc / therapeutic use*


  • Tablets
  • Zinc