Original Article: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1007957
- Zinc is a nutrient that people need to stay healthy, and it is found in cells throughout the body.
- Zinc helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses.
- The body also needs zinc to make proteins and DNA, the genetic material in all cells.
- Human zinc deficiency increases susceptibility to bacterial infection.
- Zinc deficiency is characterized by growth retardation, loss of appetite, and impaired immune function.
- In more severe cases, zinc deficiency causes hair loss, diarrhea, delayed sexual maturation, impotence, hypogonadism in males, and eye and skin lesions.
- Although zinc supplementation therapies can reduce the impact of disease, the molecular basis for protection remains unclear.
- Streptococcus pneumoniae is a major cause of bacterial pneumonia, which is prevalent in regions of zinc deficiency.
- A research report that dietary zinc levels dictate the outcome of S. pneumoniae infection in a murine model.
- Dietary zinc restriction impacts murine tissue zinc levels with distribution post-infection altered, and S. pneumoniae virulence and infection enhanced.
- Although the activation and infiltration of murine phagocytic cells was not affected by zinc restriction, their efficacy of bacterial control was compromised.
- S. pneumoniae was shown to be highly sensitive to zinc intoxication, with this process impaired in zinc restricted mice and isolated phagocytic cells.
Collectively, data show how dietary zinc deficiency increases sensitivity to S. pneumoniae infection while revealing a role for zinc as a component of host antimicrobial defenses.