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Village-Randomized Clinical Trial of Home Distribution of Zinc for Treatment of Childhood Diarrhea in Rural Western Kenya
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  • Description:
    Background

    Zinc treatment shortens diarrhea episodes and can prevent future episodes. In rural Africa, most children with diarrhea are not brought to health facilities. In a village-randomized trial in rural Kenya, we assessed if zinc treatment might have a community-level preventive effect on diarrhea incidence if available at home versus only at health facilities.

    Methods

    We randomized 16 Kenyan villages (1,903 eligible children) to receive a 10-day course of zinc and two oral rehydration solution (ORS) sachets every two months at home and 17 villages (2,241 eligible children) to receive ORS at home, but zinc at the health–facility only. Children’s caretakers were educated in zinc/ORS use by village workers, both unblinded to intervention arm. We evaluated whether incidence of diarrhea and acute lower respiratory illness (ALRI) reported at biweekly home visits and presenting to clinic were lower in zinc villages, using poisson regression adjusting for baseline disease rates, distance to clinic, and children’s age.

    Results

    There were no differences between village groups in diarrhea incidence either reported at the home or presenting to clinic. In zinc villages (1,440 children analyzed), 61.2% of diarrheal episodes were treated with zinc, compared to 5.4% in comparison villages (1,584 children analyzed, p<0.0001). There were no differences in ORS use between zinc (59.6%) and comparison villages (58.8%). Among children with fever or cough without diarrhea, zinc use was low (<0.5%). There was a lower incidence of reported ALRI in zinc villages (adjusted RR 0.68, 95% CI 0.46–0.99), but not presenting at clinic.

    Conclusions

    In this study, home zinc use to treat diarrhea did not decrease disease rates in the community. However, with proper training, availability of zinc at home could lead to more episodes of pediatric diarrhea being treated with zinc in parts of rural Africa where healthcare utilization is low.

    Trial Registration

    ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00530829

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