Saturday, August 15, 2009

Zinc Relief

Zinc pills bring a reprieve to an illness that has long gone untreated in developing nations. Many people in the developed world do not realize that diarrhea is a disease that kills 1.6 million children under 5 each year. While the disease kills more children than AIDS or Malaria, research funding is very low. In 2007, only four percent of U.S. funds allotted for researching epidemics in developing countries went toward finding prevention and cures for diarrhea.

In the past, oral-rehydration therapy (ORT) was the prescribed cure for diarrhea. However, while ORT replaces fluids and nutrients, it does not bring speedy relief to diarrhea itself. The zinc tablets bring almost immediate reprieve, with children responding to the medication within a day.

The direct effects of the zinc tablets are unknown, but a diarrhea specialist for the WHO, Olivier Fontaine, believes that zinc strengthens the body’s immune system. In this way, the disease is manageable and does not become fatal.

With the help from Save the Children organization, zinc tablets were distributed in villages in Mali. Currently, other African governments, such as in Ethiopia and Tanzania, are looking into zinc treatment programs.
--Jessica Milstead