What is the effect of zinc supplementation in the treatment of children with measles?
Measles infection has reduced globally over the last decade, but large outbreaks still occur, especially in low-income countries. Zinc is one of the essential micronutrients necessary for the optimal functioning of the immune system. Zinc deficiency is particularly common in children in low- and middle-income countries. It was therefore important to examine the potential role of zinc supplementation in controlling the symptoms of measles infection in children.
We aimed to critically assess the current evidence from published studies on the effect of zinc supplementation for the treatment of measles in children.
We searched for evidence up to 03 February 2017. This is an update of a review first published in 2015. We did not include any new studies for this update.
We found one small randomised trial (involving 85 children) that compared zinc supplements versus placebo administered to children with measles and pneumonia. All 85 children received supportive care and vitamin A. The study was conducted in India and funded by the Child Health Foundation USA and the Nestlé Foundation.
The included study was small and did not provide enough data to determine whether zinc had an effect on mortality when compared with placebo. Although no adverse effects were reported, there was insufficient evidence to draw any conclusions about the use of zinc supplements to improve measles symptoms in children. More research is needed to clarify any benefits or harms.
Quality of the evidence
We assessed the quality of the evidence as very low.