Nutritional Immunity, Zinc Sufficiency, and COVID-19 Mortality in Socially Similar European Populations

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The impact of zinc (Zn) sufficiency/supplementation on COVID-19-associated mortality and incidence (SARS-CoV-2 infections) remains unknown. During an infection, the levels of free Zn are reduced as part of “nutritional immunity” to limit the growth and replication of pathogen and the ensuing inflammatory damage. Considering its key role in immune competency and frequently recorded deficiency in large sections of different populations, Zn has been prescribed for both prophylactic and therapeutic purposes in COVID-19 without any corroborating evidence for its protective role. Multiple trials are underway evaluating the effect of Zn supplementation on COVID-19 outcome in patients getting standard of care treatment. However, the trial designs presumably lack the power to identify negative effects of Zn supplementation, especially in the vulnerable groups of elderly and patients with comorbidities (contributing 9 out of 10 deaths; up to >8,000-fold higher mortality). In this study, we have analyzed COVID-19 mortality and incidence (case) data from 23 socially similar European populations with comparable confounders (population: 522.47 million; experiencing up to >150-fold difference in death rates) and at the matching stage of the pandemic (March 12 to June 26, 2020; first wave of COVID-19 incidence and mortality). Our results suggest a positive correlation between populations’ Zn-sufficiency status and COVID-19 mortality [ r (23): 0.7893–0.6849, p-value < 0.0003] as well as incidence [ r (23):0.8084–0.5658; p-value < 0.005]. The observed association is contrary to what would be expected if Zn sufficiency was protective in COVID-19. Thus, controlled trials or retrospective analyses of the adverse event patients’ data should be undertaken to correctly guide the practice of Zn supplementation in COVID-19.

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  1. SciScore for 10.1101/2020.11.04.20151290: (What is this?)

    Please note, not all rigor criteria are appropriate for all manuscripts.

    Table 1: Rigor

    Institutional Review Board Statementnot detected.
    Randomizationnot detected.
    Blindingnot detected.
    Power Analysisnot detected.
    Sex as a biological variablenot detected.

    Table 2: Resources

    Software and Algorithms
    Statistical analysis: All basic statistical analysis including correlation (Pearson’s) and regression analysis were performed in Microsoft Excel.
    Microsoft Excel
    suggested: (Microsoft Excel, RRID:SCR_016137)

    Results from OddPub: We did not detect open data. We also did not detect open code. Researchers are encouraged to share open data when possible (see Nature blog).

    Results from LimitationRecognizer: An explicit section about the limitations of the techniques employed in this study was not found. We encourage authors to address study limitations.

    Results from TrialIdentifier: No clinical trial numbers were referenced.

    Results from Barzooka: We did not find any issues relating to the usage of bar graphs.

    Results from JetFighter: We did not find any issues relating to colormaps.

    Results from rtransparent:
    • Thank you for including a conflict of interest statement. Authors are encouraged to include this statement when submitting to a journal.
    • Thank you for including a funding statement. Authors are encouraged to include this statement when submitting to a journal.
    • No protocol registration statement was detected.

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