Pneumonia is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in children younger than five years of age. Most deaths occur during infancy and in low-income countries. Daily regimens of zinc have been reported to prevent acute lower respiratory tract infection and reduce child mortality.
To evaluate the effectiveness of zinc supplementation in the prevention of pneumonia in children aged two to 59 months.
We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2010, Issue 2), which contains the Acute Respiratory Infections Group's Specialised Register, MEDLINE (1966 to January Week 2, 2010), EMBASE (1974 to January 2010) and LILACS (1985 to January 2010).
Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating supplementation of zinc for the prevention of pneumonia in children aged 2 to 59 months of age.
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS:
Two review authors independently assessed trial quality and extracted data.
We included six trials and 7850 participants in the meta-analysis. Analysis showed that zinc supplementation reduced the incidence of pneumonia by 13% (risk ratio (RR) 0.87; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.81 to 0.94, fixed-effect, six studies) and prevalence of pneumonia by 41% (RR 0.59; 95% CI 0.35 to 0.99, random-effects, one study). On subgroup analysis, we found that zinc reduced the incidence of pneumonia defined by specific clinical criteria by 21% (i.e. confirmation by chest examination or chest radiograph) (RR 0.79; 95% CI 0.0.71 to 0.88, fixed-effect, four studies, n = 4591) but had no effect on lower specificity pneumonia case definition (i.e. age specific fast breathing with or without lower chest indrawing) (RR 0.95; 95% CI 0.86 to 1.06, fixed-effect, four studies, n = 3259).
Zinc supplementation in children is associated with a reduction in the incidence and prevalence of pneumonia, the leading cause of death in children.