When diarrhoea caused by gastroenteritis persists for more than two weeks it is referred to as persistent diarrhoea in developing countries. Whilst the Control of Diarrhoeal Diseases programme has decreased mortality from acute diarrhoea, mortality from persistent diarrhoea has not been so responsive. A number of factors have been identified which are determinants for the progression of an acute episode to one which persists in developing communities. In one study from west Africa, current infection with Cryptosporidium parvum was the most significant factor. In studies from Brazil and India, continuing infection with enteropathogenic Escherichia coli was identified in 50% of infants with persistent diarrhoea. Persistent small intestinal mucosal damage is of key importance in such children. Management of established cases is complex and difficult. However, there is clear evidence that zinc is involved in the recovery of small intestinal mucosa after injury. Zinc supplementation may indeed significantly reduce the duration of persistent diarrhoea. However, the whole question of public health supplementation with zinc, vitamin A, or other supplements, is contentious at present.