Given the rampant spread of the Coronavirus, nations across the globe are desperately trying to find any and all therapeutic means to both prevent infection and cure those already infected. Although many clinical trials are underway for potential evidence-based treatments, there continues to be a significant amount of speculative discussion (that isn’t necessarily based on validated clinical evidence) regarding other potential substances and their effects on the virus. One of the more recent speculations has been centered around zinc, which got significant publicity earlier this week when President Trump mentioned in a press conference that it may be effective against the virus. This claim quickly received pushback by MSNBC contributor and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) physician Dr. Vin Gupta:
Congruent to Dr. Gupta’s sentiment, little is known on whether there is any legitimacy to zinc as a potential treatment. One trial, being spearheaded by the University of Melbourne, is attempting to discern if zinc may help against COVID-19 and the resulting respiratory failure the virus causes, and is hoping to have preliminary results within 7 days. Others have attempted trials to use zinc as prophylaxis in conjunction with other drugs such as hydroxychloroquine, to see if this may prove to be a worthy treatment. However, no conclusive data or indications that zinc is actually useful or safe has yet been shown. Nonetheless, given the growing buzz around zinc, it may be worth understanding what this compound actually is, and its potential side effects.
Foods rich in Zinc.
What Is It: Zinc is a mineral found in nature. Per the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Zinc is involved in numerous aspects of cellular metabolism… and it plays a role in immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and cell division.” Zinc is widely available in a modern, mixed diet, and is rich in foods ranging from shellfish, poultry, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
What Are Its Potential Uses: Per the Mayo Clinic, zinc has been researched to see if it may add value in the following:
- Fighting colds
- Wound healing
- Reducing the symptoms of diarrhea
- Preventing the progression of eye disease
What Are The Side Effects: The toxic effects of zinc are numerous, and hence, it should be used with extreme caution and only under specific guidance by a trained healthcare professional. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a federal agency that is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has an extensive report on the toxicology profile of zinc. Across many studies, side effects of zinc toxicity potentially included: pneumonia, pulmonary failure, significant gastric complaints, changes to blood chemistry, possible immune system changes, headaches, fatigue, and even death. The Mayo Clinic advises that dietary zinc supplements may potentially cause side effects such as chills, fever, chest pain, fainting, vomiting, and shortness of breath, among other more serious complications. Indeed, this substance is not something to be casually consumed.
Ultimately, more research and clinical investigation is needed to determine whether zinc has any potential use in this dire pandemic, and if it is effective against this deadly virus. The scientific community, and society generally, must strive to promote evidence-based medicine, and should only rely on potential treatments that have been tried and tested multiple times in various and validated clinical contexts.
The content of this article is not implied to be and should not be relied on or substituted for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment by any means, and is not written or intended as such. This content is for information purposes only. Consult with a trained medical professional for medical advice.