The Influence of Zinc on Conditions Involving Immunosuppression

Individuals suffering from sickle-cell disease have depressed peripheral T-cell numbers, decreased CD4+/CD8+ T-cell ratios, loss of DTH, decreased NK-cell activity, decreased production of IL-2 and suppressed activity of thymulin (for references, see Prasad, 2000a). Zn supplementation restores these immunological parameters to near-normal levels. Likewise, in patients with Down's syndrome, Zn supplements restore immediate hypersensitivity, lymphocyte functions and neutrophil chemotaxis, and increase resistance to infection (Bjorksten et al., 1980). Zn supplements also restored DTH in alcoholics and stimulated cell-mediated and humoral immunity in humans and mice with hypo-gammaglobulinaemia (for references, see Shankar and Prasad, 1998).

In elderly human beings and animals, impairments in wound healing and resistance to infection were corrected by Zn supplementation (see Prasad, 2000a), suggesting that immunodeficiency in the elderly is due in part to Zn deficiency. Low plasma Zn levels in elderly patients were associated with peripheral blood lymphopenia, although not with depressed serum IgA levels or DTH responses. Zn supplementation restored normal lymphocyte and neutrophil Zn levels, increased numbers of circulating T-cells, and improved DTH and IgG antibody responses to tetanus toxoid (for references, see Prasad, 2000a). As might be expected from these effects, increased resistance to infection was also observed.

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