Compared with placebo, zinc lozenges or nasal sprays prevented about five new respiratory infections per month in 100 people, with the greatest effect associated with a reduced risk of severe symptoms such as fever and flu-like illness. Patients who used the nasal spray or sublingual zinc were almost twice as likely to recover from the disease within the first week as those who used a placebo, the study authors said in a news release. The Hunters team said the nutrient zinc caught the researchers’ attention because zinc is known to play an important role in immunity, inflammation, tissue damage, blood pressure and tissue response to oxygen deprivation. Zinc was not associated with a reduction in mean daily symptom severity, but was associated with a clinically meaningful reduction in symptom severity on the third day of illness, Hunters’ team reported. In short, zinc may be offered by physicians as a treatment option for patients desperate for a quicker recovery and at risk of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions, the researchers said. According to the research team, the most common form of zinc administration was lozenges, followed by nasal sprays and gels. Clinicians and consumers should be aware that considerable uncertainty remains about the clinical effectiveness of different zinc formulations, doses and routes of administration, the researchers concluded. And in 19 of 100 patients, symptoms persisted after one week if they did not take zinc supplements. Doses varied significantly depending on the formulation and whether zinc was used for prevention or treatment. To learn more about zinc’s potential, researchers examined more than two dozen clinical trials involving more than 5,400 adults. None of these studies specifically looked at the use of zinc to prevent or treat COVID-19. Australian researchers found that these supplements were found to help reduce respiratory infections such as colds, flu, sinusitis and pneumonia. No serious side effects have been reported in zinc users. SOURCES: Len Horowitz, MD, pulmonologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York; BMJ Open, press release, November.