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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Zinc and copper supplementation in acute diarrhea in children: a double-blind randomized controlled trial

Archana Patel12*, Michael J Dibley3, Manju Mamtani1, Neetu Badhoniya1 and Hemant Kulkarni1

Author Affiliations

1 Lata Medical Research Foundation, Nagpur, India

2 Indira Gandhi Government Medical College, Nagpur, India

3 The School of Public Health and the George Institute for International Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

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BMC Medicine 2009, 7:22  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-7-22

Published: 5 May 2009



Diarrhea causes an estimated 2.5 million child deaths in developing countries each year, 35% of which are due to acute diarrhea. Zinc and copper stores in the body are known to be depleted during acute diarrhea. Our objectives were to evaluate the efficacy of zinc and copper supplementation when given with standard treatment to children with acute watery or bloody diarrhea.


We conducted a double-blind randomized controlled clinical trial in the Department of Pediatrics at Indira Gandhi Government Medical College Nagpur, India. Eight hundred and eight children aged 6 months to 59 months with acute diarrhea were individually randomized to placebo (Pl), zinc (Zn) only, and zinc and copper (Zn+Cu) together with standard treatment for acute diarrhea.


The mean duration of diarrhea from enrolment and the mean stool weight during hospital stay were 63.7 hours and 940 grams, respectively, and there were no significant differences in the adjusted means across treatment groups. Similarly, the adjusted means of the amount of oral rehydration solution or intravenous fluids used, the proportion of participants with diarrhea more than 7 days from onset, and the severity of diarrhea indicated by more than three episodes of some dehydration or any episode of severe dehydration after enrolment, did not differ across the three groups.


The expected beneficial effects of zinc supplementation for acute diarrhea were not observed. Therapeutic Zn or Zn and Cu supplementation may not have a universal beneficial impact on the duration of acute diarrhea in children.

Trial registration

The study was registered as an International Standard Randomized Controlled Trial (ISRCTN85071383).