Having a zinc deficiency makes you more susceptible to bacterial infection, and now we know why

It is estimated that nearly two billion people worldwide suffer from zinc deficiency, but why this increases susceptibility to bacterial infection has not been well understood – until now.

Zinc helps protect against pneumonia

New research has uncovered a crucial link between dietary zinc intake and protection against Streptococcus pneumoniae, the primary bacterial cause of pneumonia.

Pneumonia accounts for more than one million deaths every year, with the greatest health burden in countries where zinc deficiency frequently remains a major social challenge.

University of Melbourne Associate Professor Christopher McDevitt, a laboratory head at the Doherty Institute, led an interdisciplinary team using state-of-the-art imaging techniques to reveal how the immune system uses zinc as an antimicrobial for protection during attack by Streptococcus pneumoniae.

WIN a R 2,000 Woolworths Voucher

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

Zinc deficiency may lead to cancer

Zinc kills bacteria

The team, which included University of Adelaide Research Fellow Dr Bart Eijkelkamp, from the Research Centre for Infectious Diseases compared infections in mice fed with different levels of zinc.

They found that mice with a lower zinc intake succumbed to infection up to three times faster because their immune system had insufficient zinc to aid in killing the bacteria.

“Dietary zinc is associated with immune function and resistance to bacterial infection, but how it provides protection has remained elusive,” says Dr Eijkelkamp.

“Our work shows that zinc is mobilised to sites of infection where it stresses the invading bacteria and helps specific immune cells kill Streptococcus pneumoniae.”

This work also translated its findings by showing that specific human immune cells could use zinc to enhance their ability to kill invading Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Source: University of Melbourne via www.sciencedaily.com

Make sure you’re getting enough zinc by eating foods with high protein content, particularly oysters, beef and pumpkin seeds which are major source of zinc. Legumes, other nuts and seeds, and other meats are also good sources.

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.