Giving zinc as a supplement along with antibiotics can significantly reduce mortality by lowering treatment failure in children suffering from serious infections such as pneumonia and meningitis, according to a study.

The study, reported in the latest issue of the international medical journal, The Lancet, has found that babies who were given zinc supplement were 40 per cent less likely to experience treatment failure and their risk of death was reduced by 43 per cent.

The study covered 700 babies aged between seven and 120 days — 352 of them were given zinc supplement along with the standard antibiotics and the others a placebo. It was funded by the Department of Biotechnology under the Union Ministry of Science and Technology.

Speaking to journalists here, DBT Secretary M.K. Bhan said research had already shown that zinc supplements could help cure diarrhoea and zinc syrups or dispersible tablets were already available for its treatment in many countries.

Worldwide, bacterial and other infections account for nearly two-thirds of deaths in children under five, with around two-fifths of the deaths occurring within the first month of life. In India, of the one million neonatal deaths that occur every year, more than a quarter are attributed to these infections.