Does dietary zinc intake increase protection against Streptococcus pneumoniae?

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Research carried out by Christopher McDevitt (Doherty Institute, Melbourne, Australia) and colleagues has uncovered a correlation between the levels of dietary zinc intake and protection against Streptococcus pneumoniae.

The researchers compared the infections of S. pneumoniae in mice fed with differing amounts of zinc. They used state-of-the-art imaging techniques to monitor how the immune system utilizes dietary zinc in the protection against the bacteria. Results showed that mice that had a lower zinc intake were infected by S. pneumoniae three-times faster and the zinc is mobilized to the infection site so it can be used by specific immune cells to increase their ability to kill the bacteria.

“The findings in this paper are a direct result of application of novel elemental imaging technology to uncover relationships that have previously been hidden to analysis, and a testament to cross-disciplinary collaboration,” explained Philip Doble, Director of the Elemental Bio-imaging Facility at the University of Technology Sydney (Australia), and a co-author of the study.

The number of deaths due to pneumonia is over one million per year and countries where zinc deficiency is common are also known to have greater health burden. “Our findings highlight the importance of ensuring dietary zinc sufficiency as part of any population-wide strategy to control the burden of pneumococcal disease in conjunction with vaccination and other antimicrobial approaches,” concluded McDevitt.

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Source: Eijelkamp BA, Morey JR, Neville SL et al. Dietary zinc and the control of Streptococcus pneumoniae infection. PLoS Pathogens. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1007957 (2019);  www.eurekalert.org/emb_releases/2019-08/uom-dzp082119.php

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