Zinc is an essential trace element for many biological functions, including immune functions. The mechanism by which zinc may affect the immune system is certainly multifaceted, due to zinc's widespread action on different enzymes, peptides, transcriptional factors and cytokines involved in the various physiological steps of immune development and reactivity. In this study, prevalence of zinc deficiency and alteration in complement system, immunoglobulins and T cell subsets depending on zinc levels were analyzed in short-term hemodialysis patients and compared with healthy controls. Plasma zinc levels were measured by flame atomic absorption spectrometry. Serum levels of complement C-3 and C-4, immunoglobulins G (IgG), M (IgM), and A (IgA), and prealbumin were measured by nephelometry depending on antigen-antibody reactions. Percentages of CD4+ and CD8+ were calculated using a flow cytometer. Statistically significant decreased zinc levels, especially in the age group >= 40years, and increased C-4, IgA, IgM IgG and CD4+ levels were observed in hemodialysis patients. The prevalence of hypozincemia in hemodialysis patients was found to be 40%. A higher CD4+/CD8+ ratio was also obtained in patients. We conclude that patients on maintenance hemodialysis for a short time exhibit zinc deficiency and disturbed immune response. (c) 2005 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.