Up to 40% of children requiring long-term intensive care develop bloodstream infections, often related to the use of catheters and ventilators. To help prevent infections, children in pediatric intensive care units often receive supplemental nutrition including zinc, selenium, and protein. However, research studies in some critically ill adults and in specific groups of children indicate that additional supplements may also be useful to reduce the risk of infection.
Scientists supported by the Pediatric Trauma and Critical Illness Branch conducted a randomized clinical trial comparing two types of supplemental nutrition in pediatric intensive care units. One-half of the children received a supplement called ZSGM, which included additional zinc, selenium, glutamine, and metoclopramide, beyond the levels children would typically receive as part of their regular care. The other half of the children received supplements of whey protein, which includes essential amino acids that may help boost the immune system and help children fight off infection.
The researchers compared infection rates across these two approaches for nearly 300 critically ill children. They also compared the results across treatments for the 25 children who had conditions that decreased the effectiveness of their immune systems.
The researchers found that the infection rates were identical in the two groups. However, for the small number of patients with compromised immune systems, the group that received ZSGM had lower infection rates. This result suggests that ZSGM supplements may be helpful in critically ill children with compromised immune systems (PMID: 22079954).