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Serum zinc status of children with persistent diarrhoea admitted to the diarrhoea management unit of Mulago Hospital, Uganda

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Introduction: Despite great advances in the management of diarrhoeal diseases, persistent diarrhoea remains a major problem in developing countries due to its syndromic nature. Zinc depletion ranks high among the factors contributing to the detrimental effects of persistent diarrhoea on the human body. This however, has not been investigated in the Ugandan population. Objective: To determine the serum zinc status of children with persistent diarrhoea. Design: Cross-sectional descriptive study. Methods: Children aged 6-36 months with persistent diarrhoea were enrolled from the diarrhoea management unit of Mulago hospital. Socio-demographic and morbidity data were collected, and laboratory investigations were carried out after recruitment. Healthy children of similar age and sex were recruited to determine reference levels of serum zinc for comparison. Results: The mean serum zinc level in the children with persistent diarrhoea was 5.83mol/l while that of children without diarrhoea was 8.99mol/l with no age or sex difference. The serum zinc concentration of children with persistent diarrhoea was significantly lower than that of children without diarrhoea (p<0.001). The prevalence of zinc deficiency in children with persistent diarrhoea was 47.9%. Of the children with persistent diarrhoea, 64 (66.7%) were stunted, wasted or both. However no significant association was observed between nutritional status and serum zinc levels. Only hypoproteinaemia was significantly associated with serum zinc levels in these children (p=0.03). Conclusion: There is a high prevalence of zinc deficiency and malnutrition among Ugandan children with persistent diarrhoea. African Health Sciences 2003 3(2); 54-60

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