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Zinc May Effectively Treat Warts

What the Study Showed
How It Was Done
Why It's Important

What the Study Showed

Oral zinc supplements may help to rid the body of viral warts, according to a 2002 study reported in the British Journal of Dermatology. Even though spontaneous recovery from warts is common, the wait can be long--sometimes years--and many people never shed their warts completely. Most conventional wart treatments involve destroying the wart tissue directly; many of these treatments, however, take months and some result in scarring.

This study, done by researchers at the Baghdad Teaching Hospital in Iraq is the first to report that participating patients with persistent warts had low blood levels of zinc compared to a control group of healthy patients. Although the researchers do not know whether the zinc deficiency appeared before or after the patients developed warts, it has been previously shown that people with low or marginal zinc levels are more vulnerable to infection. For this reason, the authors believe, it is likely that a pre-existing low-zinc condition was present in the wart patients, all of whom were completely cured after treatment with supplemental zinc.

How It Was Done

Eighty patients with viral warts (common, plantar, and plane warts) were selected for the study. Each had more than 15 warts, their warts were recalcitrant and had recurred after conventional treatment, and they were otherwise healthy. Participants were divided into two groups: one was treated with zinc, and the other, a control group, was treated with a placebo. Although the dropout rate was fairly high (44% for the treatment group and 50% for the placebo group), researchers do not believe that this caused significant deviation in the overall results.

All patients had their baseline zinc levels measured at the beginning of the study and one month after it ended. In the zinc treatment group, 23 patients received oral zinc sulfate (10 mg per kilogram of body weight), up to 600 mg per day in three divided doses. The control group of 20 patients received a placebo treatment of oral glucose. The treatment trial continued for two months with a follow-up period of up to six months. Patients were evaluated and examined every two weeks during the treatment period.

Fourteen of the 23 zinc-treated patients had complete remission of their warts after one month of treatment. Complete clearance of warts was noted in 20 patients after two months. Mild to moderate itching began after five days and lingered until the warts vanished completely. In those with common or plantar warts, the warts initially increased in size for about two weeks, then gradually shrank until they disappeared completely. Common and plane warts also increased in number before vanishing. No patient in the placebo group showed any change in their warts after one month of treatment, and many developed new warts after the second month.

The zinc supplements were well-tolerated by patients participating in this study. Side effects, including nausea (100%), vomiting (7% to 12%), and mild gastric pain (4% to 13%) were mild, passed quickly, and did not require any patients to stop treatment.

Why It's Important

Since many conventional "destructive" treatments for warts are painful, expensive, and may cause scarring, zinc supplements may offer a safe and very effective alternative. The 86% to 89% cure rate in this study's treated patients is quite high. Zinc has an important effect on the immune system and has been successfully used to boost immunity in the treatment of a variety of skin diseases. For people who have low or borderline levels of zinc, supplements may help offer resistance to infection with the wart virus by boosting immunity. And for those who have already developed warts, supplemental zinc may offer an inexpensive, convenient and effective cure.

Source: Al-Gurairi FT, Al-Waiz M, Sharquie KE. Oral zinc sulphate in the treatment of recalcitrant viral warts: randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. Br J Dermatol 2002 Mar;146(3):423-31


Date Published: 05/31/2002
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