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Food Nutr Bull. 2007 Dec;28(4 Suppl):S550-9.

Comments on background papers related to iron, folic acid, malaria and other infections.

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  • 1Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, UK.


This review comments on and summarizes five expert presentations and reports made at a meeting hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Lyon, France, 12-14 June 2006, related to iron and folate supplementation and their interactions with infection. The meeting was called because of the mortality implications of the Pemba iron study and the possible need to change WHO policy as soon as possible. Six tabled presentations were reviewed. A majority of these expert reviews regarded the Pemba study as indicating a specific adverse interaction between iron supplementation and malaria. A majority regarded such an effect as already reviewed, demonstrated, and predicted in existing literature published prior to the Pemba study. A majority concluded that there was a risk of malarial morbidity associated with oral iron supplementation. A majority made recommendations for change, indicating either that the 1998 WHO/UNICEF recommendation for iron supplementation in malarious areas should be suspended pending further research or that it should be stopped. A majority felt that folate supplementation was a less likely cause of the Pemba result; two mentioned the interference of oral folate with antifolate antimalarials; a majority suggested suspension of folic acid supplementation to children in malarious areas. Only one presentation argued for net population benefits of folate and none for iron.

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