Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Access
  • Cited by 30
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Ackland, M. Leigh and Michalczyk, Agnes A. 2016. Zinc and infant nutrition. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics,

    Eze, J.I. Ayogu, L.C. Abonyi, F.O. and Eze, U.U. 2015. The beneficial effect of dietary zinc supplementation on anaemia and immunosuppression in Trypanosoma brucei infected rats. Experimental Parasitology, Vol. 154, p. 87.

    Gollwitzer, Eva S. and Marsland, Benjamin J. 2015. Impact of Early-Life Exposures on Immune Maturation and Susceptibility to Disease. Trends in Immunology, Vol. 36, Issue. 11, p. 684.

    Konomi, J. V. Harris, F. L. Ping, X.-D. Gauthier, T. W. and Brown, L. A. S. 2015. Zinc Insufficiency Mediates Ethanol-Induced Alveolar Macrophage Dysfunction in the Pregnant Female Mouse. Alcohol and Alcoholism, Vol. 50, Issue. 1, p. 30.

    Marques, Andrea Horvath Bjørke-Monsen, Anne-Lise Teixeira, Antônio L. and Silverman, Marni N. 2015. Maternal stress, nutrition and physical activity: Impact on immune function, CNS development and psychopathology. Brain Research, Vol. 1617, p. 28.

    Zand, Nazanin Christides, Tatiana and Loughrill, Emma 2015. Handbook of Mineral Elements in Food.

    Maret, Wolfgang and Sandstead, Harold H. 2014. Zinkbedarf und Risiko und Nutzen einer Zinksupplementierung. Perspectives in Medicine, Vol. 2, Issue. 1-4, p. 3.

    Wang, Y. Yi, L. Zhao, M.L. Wu, J.Q. Wang, M.Y. and Cheng, X.C. 2014. Effects of zinc–methionine on growth performance, intestinal flora and immune function in pigeon squabs. British Poultry Science, Vol. 55, Issue. 3, p. 403.

    da Costa, Cássia Mariana Bronzon Brazão, Vânia Collins Kuehn, Christian Rodrigues Oliveira, Luiz Gustavo do Prado Júnior, José Clóvis Sala, Miguel Angel and Carraro Abrahão, Ana Amélia 2013. Zinc and pregnancy: Marked changes on the immune response following zinc therapy for pregnant females challenged with Trypanosoma cruzi. Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 32, Issue. 4, p. 592.

    Tao, Yan-ting Huang, Qing Jiang, Ya-li Wang, Xiao-lei Sun, Ping Tian, Yuanyuan Wu, Hai-liang Zhang, Min Meng, Si-bo Wang, Yu-shu Sun, Qing and Zhang, Lian-ying 2013. Up-regulation of Slc39A2(Zip2) mRNA in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patients with pulmonary tuberculosis. Molecular Biology Reports, Vol. 40, Issue. 8, p. 4979.

    Donangelo, Carmen Marino and King, Janet C. 2012. Maternal Zinc Intakes and Homeostatic Adjustments during Pregnancy and Lactation. Nutrients, Vol. 4, Issue. 12, p. 782.

    Glennie, Sarah J. Nyirenda, Moffat Williams, Neil A. and Heyderman, Robert S. 2012. Do multiple concurrent infections in African children cause irreversible immunological damage?. Immunology, Vol. 135, Issue. 2, p. 125.

    Gonçalves-Neto, Janaína Fernanda Alonso Toldo, Míriam Paula Santos, Carla Domingues do Prado Júnior, José Clóvis Fonseca, Colete and Albuquerque, Sérgio 2011. Effect of zinc supplementation in pregnant mice during experimental Trypanosoma cruzi infection. Research in Veterinary Science, Vol. 90, Issue. 2, p. 269.

    Kolachi, Nida Fatima Kazi, Tasneem Gul Afridi, Hassan Imran Kazi, Naveed Khan, Sumaira Kandhro, Ghulam Abbas Shah, Abdul Qadir Baig, Jameel Ahmed Wadhwa, Sham Kumar Shah, Faheem Jamali, Mohammad Khan and Arain, Mohammad Balal 2011. Status of Toxic Metals in Biological Samples of Diabetic Mothers and Their Neonates. Biological Trace Element Research, Vol. 143, Issue. 1, p. 196.

    Kippler, Maria Hoque, A. M. Waheedul Raqib, Rubhana Öhrvik, Helena Ekström, Eva-Charlotte and Vahter, Marie 2010. Accumulation of cadmium in human placenta interacts with the transport of micronutrients to the fetus. Toxicology Letters, Vol. 192, Issue. 2, p. 162.

    Pan, D. Bera, A. K. Das, S. Bandyopadhyay, S. Rana, T. Bandyopadhyay, S. Das, S. K. and Bhattacharya, D. 2010. Use of zinc chloride as alternative stimulant for in vitro study of nitric oxide production pathway in avian splenocyte culture. Molecular Biology Reports, Vol. 37, Issue. 5, p. 2223.

    Wieringa, F T Dijkhuizen, M A Muhilal, and Van der Meer, J W M 2010. Maternal micronutrient supplementation with zinc and β-carotene affects morbidity and immune function of infants during the first 6 months of life. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 64, Issue. 10, p. 1072.

    Cunningham-Rundles, Susanna Lin, Hong Ho-Lin, Deborah Dnistrian, Ann Cassileth, Barrie R and Perlman, Jeffrey M 2009. Role of nutrients in the development of neonatal immune response. Nutrition Reviews, Vol. 67, p. S152.

    Llanos, Miguel N. and Ronco, Ana María 2009. Fetal growth restriction is related to placental levels of cadmium, lead and arsenic but not with antioxidant activities. Reproductive Toxicology, Vol. 27, Issue. 1, p. 88.

    Bitar, Mohamed Baz, Rami Fuleihan, Nabil and Muallem, Musa 2007. Can zinc be an adjuvant therapy for juvenile onset recurrent respiratory papillomatosis?. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, Vol. 71, Issue. 8, p. 1163.


Immunobiology of gestational zinc deficiency

  • Nele Wellinghausen (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 March 2007

The trace element zinc is an essential micronutrient for the proper functioning of the immune system. Zinc deficiency leads to impaired function of the unspecific and specific immune response and consequently to an increased susceptibility to bacterial, viral and fungal infections. Immunological defects are not only seen in pronounced but even in marginal and moderate zinc deficiency. Lack of zinc is especially harmful for the development of the immune system, which stresses the importance of a balanced zinc level during pregnancy. However, gestational zinc deficiency due to an imbalance between intake and increased requirements is a common problem world-wide. In animals, gestational zinc deficiency results in reduced thymic and spleen size and depressed active and passive immunity in the infant. For example, depressed immunoglobulin levels, altered antibody repertoire, reduced proliferative response of lymphocytes and diminished neutrophil functions have been reported. Interestingly, immune defects caused by prenatal zinc deficiency, such as depressed antibody levels and lymphocyte proliferation, may even persist in subsequent generations and are not reversible by postnatal zinc administration. Since gestational zinc deficiency is a common problem throughout all cultures and socioeconomic levels, it might have immense consequences for the health status of the population. Based on a summary of the immunobiology of zinc, this article reviews the significance of zinc deficiency during pregnancy and the effect of gestational zinc deficiency on passive and active immunity in the infant. It provides a rational basis for both immunological laboratory investigations and field studies, such as large community-based zinc supplementation trials in pregnant women.

    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Immunobiology of gestational zinc deficiency
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Immunobiology of gestational zinc deficiency
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Immunobiology of gestational zinc deficiency
      Available formats
Corresponding author
Corresponding author: Dr Nele Wellinghausen, fax +49 731 502 3473, email
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

RS Bedwal & A Bahuguna (1994) Zinc, copper and selenium in reproduction. Experientia 50, 626640.

RS Beach , ME Gershwin & LS Hurley (1982 b) Gestational zinc deprivation in mice: persistence of immunodeficiency for three generations. Science 218, 469471.

K Chandra (1984) Excessive intake of zinc impairs immune response. Journal of the American Medical Association 252, 14431446.

PS Dowd , J Kelleher & PJ Guillou (1986) T-lymphocyte subsets and interleukin-2 production in zinc-deficient rats. British Journal of Nutrition 55, 5969.

AE Favier (1992) The role of zinc in reproduction. Biological Trace Element Research 32, 363382.

RL Goldenberg , T Tamura , Y Neggers , RL Copper , KE Johnston , MB DuBard & JC Hauth (1995) The effect of zinc supplementation on pregnancy outcome. Journal of the American Medical Association 274, 463468.

RA Good (1981) Nutrition and immunity. Journal of Clinical Immunology 1, 311.

JW Hadden (1992) Thymic endocrinology. International Journal of Immunopharmacology 14, 345352.

S Jameson (1993) Zinc status in pregnancy: the effect of zinc therapy on perinatal mortality, prematurity, and placental ablation. Annals of the New York Academy of Science 678, 178192.

CL Keen & ME Gershwin (1990) Zinc deficiency and immune function. Annual Reviews of Nutrition 10, 415431.

H Kirchner & H Rühl (1970) Stimulation of human peripheral lymphocytes by Zn2+in vitro. Experimental Cell Research 61, 229230.

M Merialdi , LE Caulfield , N Zavaleta , A Figueroa & JA DiPietro (1999) Adding zinc to prenatal iron and folate tablets improves fetal neurobehavioral development. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 180, 483490.

W Mertz (1995) Risk assessment of essential trace elements: new approaches to assessing recommended dietary allowances and safety limits. Nutrition Review 53, 179185.

E Mocchegiani , L Santarelli , M Muzziolo & N Fabris (1995) Reversibility of the thymic involution and of age-related peripheral immune dysfunction by zinc supplementation in old mice. International Journal of Immunopharmacology 17, 703718.

KH Neldner & KM Hambidge (1975) Zinc therapy in acrodermatitis enteropathica. New England Journal of Medicine 292, 879882.

M Salas & H Kirchner (1987) Induction of interferon-γ in human leukocyte cultures stimulated by Zn2+. Clinical Immunology and Immunopathology 45, 139142.

S Sazawal , RE Black , MK Bhan , N Bhandari , A Sinha & S Jalla (1995) Zinc supplementation in young children with acute diarrhea in India. New England Journal of Medicine 333, 839844.

KG Vruwink , LS Hurley , ME Gershwin & CL Keen (1988) Gestational zinc deficiency amplifies the regulation of metallothionein induction in adult mice. Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine 188, 3034.

CT Walsh , HH Sandstead , AS Prasad , PM Newberne & PJ Fraker (1994) Zinc: health effects and research priorities for the 1990s. Environmental and health perspectives 102, 546.

N Wellinghausen , H Kirchner & L Rink (1997 a) The immunobiology of zinc. Immunology Today 18, 519521.

N Wellinghausen , M Martin & L Rink (1997 b) Zinc inhibits interleukin 1-dependent T-cell stimulation. European Journal of Immunology 27, 25292535.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Nutrition
  • ISSN: 0007-1145
  • EISSN: 1475-2662
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *