Benefit of oral zinc supplementation as an adjunct to zidovudine (AZT) therapy against opportunistic infections in AIDS


Mocchegiani E




Int J Immunopharmacol


Zinc is perhaps the most important trace element for immune function. Congenital or acquired zinc deficiencies are associated with immune abnormalities and increased susceptibility to infectious diseases. AIDS subjects suffer from reduced zinc bioavailability, more severe in stage IV than in stage III. Such zinc deficiency causes, among other effects, a profound reduction in the biological activity of one of the thymic hormones, thymulin (zinc-facteur-timique-serique, ZnFTS). With these premises, zinc sulphate was administered orally at a daily dose of 200 mg for 30 days to AZT-treated stage III subjects with generalized lymphadenopathy (17 subjects) and stage IV subgroup C1 (12 subjects) AIDS patients. 18 stage III subjects with generalized lymphoadenopathy and 10 stage IV subgroup C1 subjects treated only with AZT served as controls. Zinc sulphate supplementation of stage III and in stage IV C1 patients was followed by an increase or a stabilization in the body weight and an increase of the number of CD4+ cells and the plasma level of active zinc-bound thymulin. The frequency of opportunistic infectious episodes in the 24 months following entry into the study was reduced after zinc supplementation in stage IV C1 subjects (11 infections vs 25 in controls) and delayed in stage III zinc-treated subjects (1 infection/24 months vs 13 infections/24 months in controls). The effect of zinc on opportunistic infections is restricted to infections due to Pneumocystis carinii and Candida, whereas no variations have been observed in the frequencies of cytomegalovirus and toxoplasma infections. These data may support the benefit of zinc as an adjunct to AZT therapy in AIDS pathology.