Dr. Soumitra Das, Health News, ET HealthWorld


Zinc can play pertinent role in mitigating COVID-19 : Dr. Soumitra Dasby Dr. Soumitra Das – Director, South Asia – Zinc Nutrient Initiative, International Zinc Association

The stark rise in the cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) across the world and now in India has raised numerous doubts among people, especially when the world is grappling towards finding a cure. Scientists and healthcare professionals from prominent medical institutes have been emphasizing on the importance of an optimally functioning immune system to safeguard against the disease. Several clinical nutritionists have also recommended consuming adequate amounts of Vitamin C and D. Zinc is proven to be effective at slowing the rate that similar viruses such as SARS and common cold replicate in the body.

As an essential micronutrient for human health, zinc plays a key role in the immune system. It is associated with many biological functions in the human body and involves in multiple cellular processes. Zinc is vital for more than 300 enzymes in the body, and also plays a role in protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, cell division and is required for proper sense of taste and smell. The adult body contains 2-3 grams of zinc. A daily intake of up to 15 mg of zinc is needed to maintain a steady state as there is no specific zinc storage system in the body.

Severe zinc deficiency depresses immune function in the humans. The body requires zinc to develop and activate T-lymphocytes, which is a part of the immune system, develops from stem cells in the bone marrow, helps protect the body from infection. Lymphocytes are white blood cells, one of the body’s main types of immune cells. Individuals with low zinc levels have shown reduced lymphocyte proliferation. The alterations in immune function explains the association of low zinc status with increased susceptibility to pneumonia and other diseases, and zinc deficient person experiences increased susceptibility to a variety of infections. Awareness should be increased on the use of zinc in boosting immunity.

A lot of debates and discussions are going on the potential role of zinc in mitigating COVID-19, at a time when the possibility of having any effective vaccine is months away, if not years. Until then, if any safe medicine could be developed to treat the COVID-19 patients, it would be a welcome move. In this context, zinc is being explored for any potential solution in this human crisis and a number of trials are being conducted globally.

Several studies in the past have stated that zinc has a broad-spectrum antiviral activity against a variety of viruses. Increased intracellular zinc concentrations inhibit RNA-dependent RNA polymerase and other proteins essential for the completion of different phases of the virus life cycle. Further, zinc also helps to maintain robust immune responses by producing cytokine and by modulation of immune cell activity.

Recently, drug repurposing is an alternative to novel drug development for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. The anti-malarial drug chloroquine and its metabolite hydroxychloroquine are currently being tested in several clinical trials as potential solution to limit COVID-19 mediated morbidity and mortality. These drugs inhibit pH-dependent steps of COVID-19 replication by increasing pH in intracellular vesicles and interfere with virus particle delivery into host cells.

Besides direct antiviral effects, these anti-malarial drugs specifically target extracellular zinc to intracellular lysosomes where it interferes with RNA-dependent RNA polymerase activity and coronavirus replication. As zinc deficiency is frequent in older adults and patients suffering from cardiovascular disease, chronic pulmonary disease, or diabetes, these drugs combined with zinc supplements can prove more effective in reducing COVID-19 morbidity and mortality than chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine individually. Therefore, these anti-malarial drugs in combination with zinc should be considered for COVID-19 clinical trials.

There are several studies underway on prophylactic use of chloroquine, especially in healthcare workers and their families. A Turkish research team in Istanbul led by Mahir Ozmen, a professor of surgery at the Istinye University, School of Medicine in Istanbul is conducting a study on the use of chloroquine in combination with zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin D. Hydroxychloroquine, they say, helps the zinc get inside the infected cells to destroy the virus, and vitamins C and D support immune function. Even if the approach doesn’t prevent infection with COVID-19, they hope it will reduce the severity of the illness and the prophylaxis would buy some time to develop a vaccine that will offer protection to everyone.

In this pandemic situation, intensive clinical trials need to be conducted in order to develop an effective drug to treat the severe patients of COVID-19, till the time any effective vaccine is developed.

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld.com does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETHealthworld.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly.


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