Decline in childhood iron deficiency after interruption of malaria transmission in highland Kenya

Anne E.P. Frosch, Bartholomew N. Ondigo, George A. Ayodo, John M. Vulule, Chandy C. John, Sarah E. Cusick

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21 Scopus citations


Background: Achieving optimal iron status in children in malariaendemic areas may increase the risk of malaria. Malaria itself may contribute to iron deficiency, but the impact of an interruption in malaria transmission on the prevalence of iron deficiency is unknown. Objectives: We aimed to determine whether 1) iron status improved in children living in 2 Kenyan villages with a documented cessation in malaria transmission and 2) changes in iron status correlated with changes in hemoglobin. Design: We measured iron [hemoglobin, ferritin, soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR)] and inflammatory [C-reactive protein (CRP)] markers in paired plasma samples from 190 children aged 4-59 mo at the beginning (May 2007) and end (July 2008) of a documented 12-mo period of interruption in malaria transmission in 2 highland areas in Kenya with unstable malaria transmission and ongoing malaria surveillance. Results: Between May 2007 and July 2008, mean (±SD) hemoglobin increased from 10.8 ± 1.6 to 11.6 ± 1.6 g/dL. Median (25th, 75th percentile) ferritin increased from 17.0 (9.7, 25.6) to 22.6 (13.4, 34.7) μg/L (P < 0.001), whereas median sTfR decreased from 32.4 (26.3, 43.2) to 27.7 (22.1, 36.0) nmol/L (P < 0.001). Median CRP was low (<1 mg/L in both years) and did not change significantly. Iron deficiency prevalence (ferritin <12 μg/L, or <30 μg/L if CRP ≥10 mg/L) decreased from 35.9% (95% CI: 28.9%, 43.0%) to 24.9% (18.5%, 31.2%) (P = 0.005). The prevalence of iron deficiency with anemia (hemoglobin <11.0 g/dL) declined from 27.2% (20.7%, 33.8%) to 12.2% (7.4%, 17.1%) (P < 0.001). Improvement in iron status correlated with an increase in hemoglobin and was greater than explained by physiologic changes expected with age. Conclusions: In this area of unstable malaria transmission, the prevalence of iron deficiency in children decreased significantly after the interruption of malaria transmission and was correlated with an increase in hemoglobin. These findings suggest that malaria elimination strategies themselves may be an effective way to address iron deficiency in malaria-endemic areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)968-973
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014


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