Zinc–An Antiviral and Immunogen

One often neglected micronutrient, which is a known antiviral and immunogen is Zinc. Zinc has been used for a number of years to shorten the common cold. It is also useful as an alloy for surgical instruments. Because it makes them resistant to bacterial and viral contamination prior to sterilization. What makes Zinc effective is that it’s cheap, you don’t need much and its widely available. Virologists suggest, anecdotally for now, that it has a role to play in controlling the severity of coronaviral infections.

Unfortunately, our modern diets are deficient in Zinc. So supplementation is a must. Zinc comes in various forms (e.g. picolinate, gluconate, sulfate) but mostly they all have the same bioavailability. How much Zinc do you need per day? Zinc is a micronutrient so you only need 50 mg per day. That’s a one tablet per day dose, you can take during lunch. However, taking more does not help you and may lead to toxicity. Everything in moderation.

So where’s the antiviral evidence? Here’s the abstract!

PLoS Pathog. 2010 Nov; 6(11)
Zn2+ Inhibits Coronavirus and Arterivirus RNA Polymerase Activity In Vitro and Zinc Ionophores Block the Replication of These Viruses in Cell Culture
Aartjan J. W. te Velthuis, Sjoerd H. E. van den Worm, Amy C. Sims, Ralph S. Baric, Eric J. Snijder, * and Martijn J. van Hemert

Increasing the intracellular Zn2+ concentration with zinc-ionophores like pyrithione (PT) can efficiently impair the replication of a variety of RNA viruses, including poliovirus and influenza virus. For some viruses this effect has been attributed to interference with viral polyprotein processing. In this study we demonstrate that the combination of Zn2+ and PT at low concentrations (2 µM Zn2+ and 2 µM PT) inhibits the replication of SARS-coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and equine arteritis virus (EAV) in cell culture. The RNA synthesis of these two distantly related nidoviruses is catalyzed by an RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp), which is the core enzyme of their multiprotein replication and transcription complex (RTC). Using an activity assay for RTCs isolated from cells infected with SARS-CoV or EAV—thus eliminating the need for PT to transport Zn2+ across the plasma membrane—we show that Zn2+ efficiently inhibits the RNA-synthesizing activity of the RTCs of both viruses. Enzymatic studies using recombinant RdRps (SARS-CoV nsp12 and EAV nsp9) purified from E. coli subsequently revealed that Zn2+ directly inhibited the in vitro activity of both nidovirus polymerases. More specifically, Zn2+ was found to block the initiation step of EAV RNA synthesis, whereas in the case of the SARS-CoV RdRp elongation was inhibited and template binding reduced. By chelating Zn2+ with MgEDTA, the inhibitory effect of the divalent cation could be reversed, which provides a novel experimental tool for in vitro studies of the molecular details of nidovirus replication and transcription.

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