PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2021 Jan 4;15(1):e0008895. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0008895. eCollection 2021 Jan.
A wide variety of symptoms is associated with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection, and these symptoms can overlap with other conditions and diseases. Knowing the distribution of symptoms across diseases and individuals can support clinical actions on timelines shorter than those for drug and vaccine development. Here, we focus on zinc deficiency symptoms, symptom overlap with other conditions, as well as zinc effects on immune health and mechanistic zinc deficiency risk groups. There are well-studied beneficial effects of zinc on the immune system including a decreased susceptibility to and improved clinical outcomes for infectious pathogens including multiple viruses. Zinc is also an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative stress agent, relevant to some severe Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) symptoms. Unfortunately, zinc deficiency is common worldwide and not exclusive to the developing world. Lifestyle choices and preexisting conditions alone can result in zinc deficiency, and we compile zinc risk groups based on a review of the literature. It is also important to distinguish chronic zinc deficiency from deficiency acquired upon viral infection and immune response and their different supplementation strategies. Zinc is being considered as prophylactic or adjunct therapy for COVID-19, with 12 clinical trials underway, highlighting the relevance of this trace element for global pandemics. Using the example of zinc, we show that there is a critical need for a deeper understanding of essential trace elements in human health, and the resulting deficiency symptoms and their overlap with other conditions. This knowledge will directly support human immune health for decreasing susceptibility, shortening illness duration, and preventing progression to severe cases in the current and future pandemics.