Background: Iron therapy begun concurrently with antimalarial treatment may not be well absorbed because of malariainduced inflammation. Delaying the start of iron therapy may permit better iron absorption and distribution. Objective: We compared erythrocyte iron incorporation in children who started iron supplementation concurrently with antimalarial treatment or 28 d later. We hypothesized that delayed iron supplementation would be associated with greater incorporation and better hematologic recovery. Methods: We enrolled 100 children aged 6-59 mo with malaria and hemoglobin concentrations of 50.0-99.9 g/L who presented to Mulago Hospital, Kampala, into a randomized trial of iron therapy. All children were administered antimalarial treatment. Children with zinc protoporphyrin (ZPP) ≥80 μmol/mol heme were randomly assigned to start iron supplementation concurrently with the antimalarial treatment [immediate iron (I) group] or 28 d later [delayed iron (D) group]. All children were administered iron-stable isotope 57Fe on day 0 and 58Fe on day 28. We compared the percentage of iron incorporation at the start of supplementation (I group at day 0 compared with D group at day 28, aim 1) and hematologic recovery at day 56 (aim 2). Results: The percentage of iron incorporation (mean ± SE)was greater at day 28 in the D group (16.5% ± 1.7%) than at day 0 in the I group (7.9% ± 0.5%; P < 0.001). On day 56, concentrations of hemoglobin and ZPP and plasma ferritin, soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR), hepcidin, and C-reactive protein did not differ between the groups. On day 28, the hemoglobin (mean ± SD) and plasma iron markers (geometricmean; 95% CI) reflected poorer iron status in the D group than in the I group at this intervening time as follows: hemoglobin (105 ± 15.9 compared with 112 ± 12.4 g/L; P = 0.04), ferritin (39.3 μg/L; 23.5, 65.7 μg/L compared with 79.9 μg/L; 58.3, 110 μg/L; P = 0.02), sTfR (8.9 mg/L; 7.4, 10.7 mg/L compared with 6.7 mg/L; 6.1, 7.5 mg/L; P = 0.01), and hepcidin (13.3 ng/mL; 8.3, 21.2 ng/mL compared with 38.8 ng/mL; 28.3, 53.3 ng/mL; P < 0.001). Conclusions: Delaying the start of iron improves incorporation but leads to equivalent hematologic recovery at day 56 in Ugandan children with malaria and anemia. These results do not demonstrate a clear, short-term benefit of delaying iron. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01754701.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Supported by Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grant 1R03HD074262 and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the NIH award UL1TR000114 (KL2 award to SE Cusick).
- Iron-stable isotopes
- Timing of iron therapy