Low zinc levels linked to febrile seizures
By C. Vidya Shankar, MD
CHENNAI, India (Reuters Health) - Zinc levels in the blood are significantly lower in children with febrile seizures and may have role in causing them, according to results of a study from India.
Drs. R. Ganesh and Lalitha Janakiraman from the Kanchi Kamakoti CHILDS Trust Hospital, India evaluated zinc levels in 38 previously healthy children between 3 months and 5 in age who were admitted to the hospital with fever-related seizures. The investigators also evaluated 38 similar children, without febrile seizures, who served as a comparison, or "control," group. Blood samples were drawn within 6 hours of admission and zinc levels were estimated using standard methods.
The average zinc level was significantly lower in children with febrile seizures compared with the controls, with levels of 32.17 vs. 87.6 micrograms per decaliter, respectively, the investigators report in the medical journal, Clinical Pediatrics.
Zinc is a micronutrient that is essential for the normal functioning and development of the central nervous system, the researchers explain. It is needed for the synthesis of gamma-aminobutyric acid, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, and complements the inhibitory effects of calcium on the excitatory N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors, they add.
When a patient develops low levels of zinc, the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors become activated and induce an epileptic discharge in children with high fevers, Ganesh and Janakiraman hypothesized.
Although their study population was small and has the limitation of being hospital based, they conclude that the use of zinc supplements in reducing the rate of febrile seizures in children should be investigated.
SOURCE: Clinical Pediatrics, March 2, 2008.