Measurements of copper and zinc in transfusion-dependent thalassemia (TDT) show contradictory results.
To examine serum levels of these minerals in TDT in relation to iron overload indices and erythron variables.
This study recruited 60 children with TDT and 30 healthy controls aged 3-12 years old.
Zinc was significantly higher in TDT children than in controls, while copper and the copper to zinc ratio were significantly lowered in TDT. Serum zinc was significantly associated with the number of blood transfusions and iron overload variables (including serum iron and TS%) and negatively with erythron variables (including hemoglobin, mean corpuscular volume, mean corpuscular hemoglobin). Serum copper was significantly and negatively associated with the same iron overload and erythron variables. The copper to zinc ratio was significantly correlated with iron, TS%, ferritin, hemoglobin, mean corpuscular volume, and mean corpuscular hemoglobin. Albumin levels were significantly higher in TDT children than in control children.
Our results suggest that the increase in zinc in children with TDT may be explained by iron loading anemia and hemolysis and the consequent shedding of high amounts of intracellular zinc into the plasma. Increased albumin levels and treatment with Desferral may further contribute towards higher zinc levels in TDT. We suggest that the elevations in zinc in TDT are a compensatory mechanism protecting against infection, inflammation, and oxidative stress. Previous proposals for prophylactic use of zinc supplements in TDT may not be warranted.

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