STUDY Vitamin C and zinc supplementation can increase the effectiveness of antimalarial agents in 2022

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by parasites of the genus Plasmodium. There are five species known to cause malaria in humans, namely Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium malariae, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium ovale and Plasmodium knowlesi. Of these parasites, Plasmodium falciparum is said to cause the deadliest form of malaria. Patients with falciparum malaria have seizures, develop kidney and liver failure, and often end up in a coma. According to the UK's National Health Service (NHS), Plasmodium falciparum is the most common type of malaria parasite and is responsible for the most malaria deaths worldwide.

STUDY Vitamin C and zinc supplementation
STUDY Vitamin C and zinc supplementation can increase the effectiveness of antimalarial agents in 2022

But apart from the type of malaria pathogen, two other factors appear to contribute to malaria. Studies show that iron and zinc deficiencies are also common in areas where malaria is common. Therefore, researchers believe that nutritional supplements can be of great benefit to patients with malaria.

However, studies show that iron supplementation does not have a significant effect on malaria outcomes. In fact, a study published in The Lancet indicated that routine iron supplementation increases the risk of serious illness and death in populations with high rates of malaria. These reports led the researchers to hypothesize that instead of iron, vitamin C supplementation with zinc could be of great benefit in the treatment of malaria. In addition to boosting immune function, vitamin C is known to improve the absorption of iron from food.

To test this hypothesis, researchers from Nigeria and the United Kingdom conducted an experiment on mice infected with P. berghei. This parasite is known to cause malaria in some rodents. The researchers evaluated the effects of different combinations of vitamin C and zinc on the blood parameters and death of mice infected with Plasmodium. They report their findings in an article published in the journal Food Science and Human Wellness.

Vitamin C and Zinc Supplements as Complementary Treatments for Malaria

According to an article published in the Journal of Nutrition, the combination of vitamins and zinc may help reduce rates of malaria and death in children. Specifically, the researchers found that supplementing with vitamin A and zinc, two nutrients known to boost immunity, reduced the incidence of malaria by 27% in children aged six to 24 months. These children came from 12 randomly selected communities in Ghana, which is among the 15 countries with the highest rates of malaria in the world.

Based on this finding, the Anglo-Nigerian team hypothesized that vitamin C and zinc could enhance the effects of antimalarial drugs and stimulate faster recovery from malaria-induced anemia. Severe malaria anemia is associated with Plasmodium falciparum infection and is responsible for a third of malaria-related deaths. (Related: Researchers Confirm Antispasmodic Effects of Abdominal Pain in Mice Infected With Malaria.)

To confirm their hypothesis, the researchers conducted a three-week trial to assess changes in the blood and survival of mice infected with P. berghei bacteria after three days of treatment with the antimalarial drug, artemether, as well as vitamin C and zinc supplements. . They grouped the mice based on different ratios of vitamin C and zinc (i.e. 90:10, 80:20, 70:30, 60:40, and 50:50).

Researchers performed weekly examinations to assess body weight, stacked cell volume, white blood cell count, red blood cell count, hemoglobin concentration, and mortality. At the end of the trial, they found that the death rate from malaria was lower in the group that took artemether with vitamin C and zinc. However, supplementation did not reduce parasitaemia in the blood of infected mice.

Addition of vitamin C and zinc (30:70) increased survival in infected mice and produced better results compared to other ratios. In particular, this ratio of vitamin C and zinc helped improve stacked cell volume and hemoglobin concentration. The volume of concentrated cells is a measure of the percentage of blood that is made up of cells. A reduced volume of stacked cells indicates loss of red blood cells, a condition known as anemia.

Based on these results, the researchers concluded that vitamin C and zinc supplementation offered the management of malaria.

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