Researchers identify best clinical treatment options for children with diarrhea

Researchers at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and McMaster University have identified the best clinical treatment options for diarrhea.

A study that is believed to be first of its kind, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that two combination treatments, zinc plus Saccharomyces boulardii (a yeast probiotic), and zinc plus smectite (a medicinal clay), are the most effective interventions used to treat Acute Diarrhea and Gastroenteritis (ADG) in hospitalized children.

Researchers say the findings are expected to help establish future clinical guidelines for treatment.

While diarrhea is rarely fatal in high-income countries like Canada, it remains a leading cause of child hospitalizations.

“Our research has identified what works best to treat ADG in children,” said Dr. Ivan Florez, the lead author of the study. Dr. Florez is a pediatrician from Colombia and a Ph.D. student in the department of health research methods, evidence and impact (HEI) at McMaster University.

“This is going to have an enormous impact, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where these diseases can be more dangerous for children,” said Dr. Lehana Thabane, senior author of the study.

Diarrheal diseases remain the third most common cause of death worldwide for children under the age of five, with most of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries.

The study says though zinc deficiency is common in low- and middle-income countries, short-term zinc supplementation as treatment for ADG in children has been shown to be an effective and inexpensive option for hospitals in these countries.

According to the National Institutes of Health, dietary zinc is most prevalent in a variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats, poultry, legumes and whole grains.

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