Assessment of intracellular zinc levels in infants with food protein–induced allergic proctocolitis

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Nursen Cigerci Gunaydin
Aliye Celikkol
Aysin Nalbantoglu


Allergic Proctocolitis, Children, Erythrocyte Zinc, Food Allergy, Trace Element


Background: Food protein–induced allergic proctocolitis (FPIAP) is characterized by bloody stools in well-appearing infants. Zinc is a micronutrient that plays a crucial role in immune modulation and is essential for cellular function during immune response. Although there are studies on the assessment of intracellular zinc levels in allergic diseases, no data is available on erythrocyte zinc levels of patients with FPIAP.

Objective: This study aimed to assess the erythrocyte zinc levels of children with allergic proctocolitis and compare zinc levels with clinical and demographic characteristics.

Methods: This was a case–control study that prospectively compared 50 patients with FPIAP and 50 healthy children without malnutrition. The erythrocyte zinc levels of children were determined using atomic absorption spectrophotometry.

Results: Fifty patients with FPIAP, including 28 (51%) girls, with median age of 7.1 ± 2.9 (3–14) months and 50 healthy children, including 26 (53.1%) girls, with median age of 7.7 ± 2.8 (3–13) months were included in the study. Seventy percent (n = 35) of the patients with FPIAP started to have symptoms while they were exclusively breastfeeding. Offending allergen foods were cow’s milk (78%), egg (40%), sesame (10%), hazelnut (8%), almond (6%), beef (6%), and peanuts (6%, n = 3). Intracellular (erythrocyte) zinc levels in patients with FPIAP were lower than in the healthy control group (495.5 ± 134 µg/dL, 567.3 ± 154.4 µg/dL, respectively, P = 0.01). Patients with FPIAP aged younger than 6 months had lower intracellular zinc levels compared with those aged above 6 months (457 ± 137 µg/dL; 548 ± 112 µg/dL, respectively, P = 0.01). There was no relationship between zinc levels and time of symptom onset, presence of concomitant disease, being allergic to multiple foods, and family history of atopy (P > 0.05).

Conclusions: FPIAP is a food allergy with limited information on its pathogenesis. Considering the beneficial effects on gastrointestinal system epithelia, zinc may be involved in the pathogenesis of FPIAP. Future comprehensive prospective research on this subject is of importance.

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