Low serum zinc levels in an endemic area of visceral leishmaniasis in Bihar, India

UMMS Affiliation

School of Medicine

Faculty Mentor

Sanman Singh in India; Mick Godkin in Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Publication Date


Document Type



Adult; Animals; Child; Female; Humans; India; Leishmania; Leishmaniasis, Visceral; Male; Poverty; Rural Population; Urban Population; Young Adult; Zinc


Clinical Epidemiology | Epidemiology | Nutritional and Metabolic Diseases


BACKGROUND and OBJECTIVES: India carries approximately 50 per cent of the global burden of visceral leishmaniasis and majority of patients from the poor, rural communities of Bihar State. Zinc is an essential trace element and its relevance for proper functioning of the entire immune system is already well documented. Though low serum zinc levels have been reported in many parasitic diseases, limited information is available regarding zinc status in human leishmaniasis. We investigated to define the relationship between zinc level in visceral leishmaniasis (VL) patients in endemic and non-endemic regions. METHODS: Venous blood was collected from 88 patients, 16 parasitologically confirmed VL, 35 healthy controls from endemic area (Bihar) and 37 healthy urban controls from non-endemic area, Delhi. In all the three groups, levels of serum albumin, total protein (markers of nutritional status) and zinc were estimated by colorimetric methods. RESULTS: Serum zinc levels were found to be significantly lower (P<0.001) in VL patients than non-endemic controls. The serum zinc levels in VL endemic controls were also significantly lower (P < 0.001) than non- endemic controls, but these values were not statistically significantly different from VL patients. However, all samples from Bihar (VL patients and controls) had lower serum zinc levels than non-endemic controls from Delhi. INTERPRETATION and CONCLUSION: Low serum Zn levels, in healthy subjects from Bihar and more significantly in VL patients of this region, are possibly associated with vulnerability and endemicity of visceral leishmaniasis in the region. Further studies need to be done to assess the role of oral zinc supplementation in better management and prevention of VL, particularly in endemic areas.


Bihar socio-economic status, epidemiology, immune system, malnourishment, visceral leishmaniasis, zinc deficiency


Indian J Med Res. 2010 Jun;131:793-8. Link to article on publisher's website

Journal/Book/Conference Title

The Indian journal of medical research


Medical student Stephen Carpenter participated in this study as part of the Senior Scholars research program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID