Researchers at the University of Florida Center for Nutritional Sciences find that zinc boosts immunity and could help fight viral and bacterial infection. The study, published in the August 2009 print issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology suggests that zinc could be developed to treat antibiotic resistant infections because it stimulates activation of immune enhancing T-cells needed to fight viruses and infection.
Study co-author, Robert Cousins, PhD says, "It has been shown that zinc supplementation significantly reduces the duration and severity of childhood diarrhea, lower respiratory infections, and incidence of malaria in zinc-deficient children. Age-related declines in immune function have also been related to zinc deficiency in the elderly”. The study shows that zinc boosts immune function by activating (T cells) that can help destroy viruses and bacteria.
The researchers used healthy volunteers to find the infection and virus fighting effects of zinc. They gave two groups of participants either placebo or zinc the simulated infection under lab conditions after isolating T cells from the blood of the study volunteers.
The results showed the group given zinc had higher activation of T-cells that enhance immunity and help fight infection and viruses. The ability of “ZIP8” was enhanced – a molecule that transports zinc into cell cytoplasm, activating immune fighting cells then altering them in a way that fights infection.
John Wherry, Ph.D., Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology says "As the debate over zinc supplementation in healthy individuals continues studies like this help shed light on how zinc may enhance the ability of our immune systems to fight off foreign invaders”.
The study could lead to new zinc based drugs that help boost immunity and fight antibiotic resistant infections that increasingly claim lives. Scientists have now shown that zinc boosts immunity by activating T-cells that can help us fight infection and viral illness.
Kathleen Blanchard RN
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