Intended for healthcare professionals


Zinc deficiency

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 22 February 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:409

Zinc Deficiency and Indian Childhood Cirrhosis


Prasad describes the history of the study of zinc deficiency as starting in 1961.

There is a family of traditional healers in Andhra Pradesh in India which has been treating Indian childhood cirrhosis with Zinc Oxide for several generations. Indian childhood cirrhosis is thought to be a condition of chronic copper overload where excess hepatic copper leads to cirrhosis in young children. As to how these traditional healers struck upon Zinc as an intervention to reduce the copper load is puzzling.

It is thought that a combination of genetic defects and use of corroded copper and brass vessels to heat and store milk led to Indian Childhood Cirrhosis being endemic in some parts of the country.

The lesson is that there are times when we can learn from traditional healers.

1. Prasad AS. Zinc deficiency Has been known of for 40 years but ignored by global health organisations. BMJ 2003;326:409-410 ( 22 February )

Competing interests:  
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

21 February 2003
Prabhat K Mahapatra
Consultant Psychiatrist
Care Principles, Barham, Canterbury CT4 6PW